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Budding politicians test debating skills

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The One Bermuda Alliance and the Progressive Labour Party are not the only ones debating issues facing the Island in the House of Assembly.

Regularly, the Bermuda Youth Parliament pits a team led by the youth premier, Namrata Bisht, against another group led by youth opposition leader Destinee Taylor in debate, testing and developing their skills.

Ms Bisht, a 17-year-old BHS student, said she wanted to join the Youth Parliament as soon as she read about it.

“I wanted to join to get a better understanding of politics and show my leadership skills in the community,” she said. “It's spectacular that youth today can see me in the newspaper and be inspired to join Youth Parliament, similar to how I once was.

“My favourite aspect of Youth Parliament is simply its existence. The progressive society we live in strives to give a voice to the youth, something rare.

Youth Parliament is an outlet which allows us to recognise the local and global issues the youth face. By being youth premier I have the opportunity to advocate for a better future for the youth.”

Meanwhile Ms Taylor, a 17-year-old CedarBridge Academy graduate looking to studying at Bellerby's College in Oxford, said: “I always liked public speaking and advocating change for others hence the reason why I got involved in Youth Parliament two years ago.

“My favourite aspect is the thrill and rush in preparing for the intense debates. I love going out and interviewing people in those respective fields and learning new facts about Bermuda.

“It's a big task and responsibility to be leader of the opposition. You have to go over everyone's speeches, and make sure everyone is on the same page on opposition because our ultimate goal is to be a voice for the young people and express their concerns that get heard by the actual politicians and Minister of Education.”

Outside of Youth Parliament, both teens are also known for their service to the community. Ms Bisht volunteers with the St John Ambulance and Operation Smiles, a playgroup for children with Down's syndrome, while Ms Taylor volunteers with Pride Paths Bermuda, Meals on Wheels and recently worked with Dunkley's Dairy to give out Christmas hampers.

Ms Taylor said she plans to use her debate skills to pursue a career in law, noting that she has recently spent time shadowing senior magistrate Juan Wolffe and worked with the team at Christopher's Barristers and Attorneys.

Meanwhile, Ms Bisht said she has not quite decided what her focus will be after graduating high school, but she wants to continue to study biology, psychology and politics and do what she can to advocate for equality.

Asked what advice she would give to other young people, she said: “To be a leader you don't have to be the loudest. Leadership is centred around your willingness to learn from others and your ability to conquer your fears. I know many of you may be hesitant to join because you are too scared to speak in public. However, Youth Parliament is an environment where all youth are invited to share their opinions and contribute to our discussions.”

Meanwhile, Ms Taylor urged any young people interested in joining Youth Parliament to give it a shot.

“People assume it's a big nerve-racking thing but it's not,” she said. “We are conversing among our peers and this helps you increase your public speaking skills in addition to your confidence. Additionally, it's an awesome networking opportunity. You get the contact of local MPs and get to see how down-to-earth they really are. Join Youth Parliament and see how it feels to debate and discuss concerns in the actual House of Parliament. Who knows? One day the seats we sit in might actually become permanent.”

Team effort: youth premier Namrata Bisht confers with her team in Youth Parliament (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Finding their voice: youth opposition leader Destinee Taylor, centre, with her team at the last Youth Parliament session (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published December 21, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 21, 2015 at 8:19 am)

Budding politicians test debating skills

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