Student ‘likes to stand up for the underdog’
A passion for education has become a civic calling for Kjeld Conyers-Steede, at home in Bermuda and now in Canada.
Kjeld, 21, believes that young people need to discover their voices and get engaged in their communities.
“I'm in the process of starting a non-profit for civil engagement among the youth, and I believe in lowering the voting age to 16,” Kjeld told The Royal Gazette.
“When I was on the Youth Parliament in Bermuda, I was all for young people voting. A lot of people think under-18s don't have the civic knowledge to provide an input to the community. But students do have concerns and recommendations.”
Now finishing his third year at the University of New Brunswick, Kjeld sees the city of Saint John as a second home, and wants to “encourage the youth to believe in their city and make their own destinies”. As the vice-president of external affairs for the university's student union, Kjeld has witnessed how “in Canada, student unions have a lot of political capital — they have a lot of influence when it comes to policies with postsecondary education”.
In his position, Kjeld has joined in a concerted lobbying effort for the provincial and federal Government that brought $5 million in grants to his campus this year.
Kjeld is an advocate for international students, but also low-income students and the LGBT community: “I really like to stand up for underdogs,” he said.
The student unions also push on behalf of indigenous students.
Canada is a rewarding place to lobby for an affordable postsecondary education, he said. The country's focus is shifting; “really heavily investing in further education”.
On top of his time at the Youth Parliament, Kjeld saw how the system operates in the student government at CedarBridge Academy.
He is studying politics and business with a concentration in public policy.
“As of right now, I have two homes; I consider New Brunswick home, and obviously there's Bermuda. I really want to have an impact in both communities, when it comes to people seeing the value of investing in the public school system and postsecondary education.
“I've always had a need to be involved — I'm a big believer in civic duty and having a civic involvement in your community.”