Meet Portsmouth’s Member of Youth Parliament, who joins forces with her deputies to fight for causes important to the city’s young people
Three inspiring young politicians are making a difference to the future of Portsmouth by championing the city’s youth.
Portsmouth’s Member of Youth Parliament and her deputies have big plans to improve their area as they campaign for issues important to young people in the area.
MYP Destiny Rose-Forde Kennedy, along with deputy MYPs Ella Reilly and Willow Lindstrom-Fabik, work alongside city councillors to influence key decisions that affect young people and children.
Destiny, a 17-year-old student at The Portsmouth Grammar School, became Portsmouth’s new MYP following an election earlier this year.
She said: ‘It was very exciting - as I’m a politics A-level student I learn about these things and putting it into practice was very really fulfilling.’
As well as meeting with their peers from around the country in Westminster and liaising with MPs and councillors on a regular basis, the MYP works with her deputies to talk with young people around the Portsmouth area and form connections with groups and organisations which can offer support.
Destiny said: ‘There weren’t necessarily always going to be two deputies but we’ve all worked as a team. It’s been really useful for me, really great.
‘We were elected on similar campaign priorities - youth mental health and improving those services, as generally the sentiment is that people don’t know where to go.
‘Also improving the environment and particularly air pollution - as a coastal city, what’s important to us is different from people living up north.
‘We also work on diversity and inclusion and look at those outlets in schools for people to access.’
Ella added: ‘We work with groups, helping people to build their networks, letting young people have that seat at the decision making table.’
The three youngsters have held their positions since the election in March, and meet as regularly as possible, usually around twice a month.
Willow said: ‘We have been focusing on youth groups - I think it’s really important that young people go out and hear their views.’
The 13-year-old Priory School student said she was encouraged to stand for election by her mum.
She said: ‘I wasn’t so sure about it but I heard about it through school and my mum convinced me to do it.
‘I did a talk about plastic pollution before so I had some experience in that field.
‘I wanted to be able to express my views.’
Much of her campaigning was done over social media as lockdowns meant that it was difficult for candidates to go out and meet people face-to-face.
Willow, who lives in Southsea, added: ‘It was kind of nice to do it online as now I’m a bit more confident - it was a great learning experience and I’ve learned a lot of things.’
There are four key issues at the heart of the MYP team’s work: environment, bridging the education gap, mental health and wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion with a focus on anti-racism.
Ella said: ‘We’re doing a lot of stakeholder mapping and setting up our working groups so we have young people to go to, making sure there is a youth presence.’
She says that the best thing about being a deputy MYP is the positive feedback she hears from other young people.
The 18-year-old added: ‘Some people have said that what you’ve been campaigning for is exactly what they want to see.
‘It’s so exciting to see what we’re planning for the future.’
Ella fulfils her role as deputy MYP alongside other projects she is working on during a gap year.
She said: ‘Portsmouth has offered me a lot of opportunities and I want to make sure other people have those opportunities too.
‘I’ve been able to have my say as a student and I think this is a really cool opportunity to do that.’
Destiny also feels that her role helps her to give back to her community.
She said: ‘I definitely think it’s made me more confident in expressing my beliefs and engaging with new areas I haven’t engaged with before.
‘The role hasn’t taken me out of my comfort zone but put me in it - I’ve always been a very outspoken person.
‘When I was younger, I didn’t feel as if I had a significant voice or the power to make real changes. It wouldn’t be heard to the level of where it is now.
‘I’ve always wanted to be someone who empowers other people and being a role model for other people.’
Willow added: ‘I’ve learned a lot, especially from Destiny and Ella.
‘We still have a long way to go, but with Covid, we haven’t been able to do as much as we wanted to.’
The Covid pandemic and the lockdown earlier this year has presented big challenges to the youngsters, who are determined to continue their work.
Councillor Suzy Horton, who supports the youth representatives, said: ‘I feel really inspired by these guys.
‘We did our best to have a robust campaign and they came through it.
‘They’ve been really tasked with a challenge around all the Covid stuff. What they’ve achieved so far has been really valuable.
‘Any experience in politics, you will realise there are barriers and I hope that they will learn from them.’
Council participation officer Adam Murphy works with Cllr Horton to enable the young people to do their work.
He said: ‘Naturally I’m an extreme advocate for it. As a city, there are many more stakeholders in terms of the future of the city.
‘It’s been so important to understand what the priorities are for young people.’
Beyond their work with the youth parliament, the future is bright for the three young women.
Soon Destiny will be stepping down from her role to pursue a university education.
She said she is ‘definitely excited’ to be studying law and Spanish, while Ella plans to do a degree in wildlife ecology and conservation.
University is still a long way off for Willow, but like Destiny, she is interested in studying law and is keen to ‘change the future’.
Willow is set to serve as deputy MYP for two years, but this could change as her colleagues head off to university.
She said: ‘I can decide whether I want to become MYP myself - but that’s far in the future.’
Cllr Horton added that the work of the MYPs should change the perception some have of young people in the city, as it demonstrates the character and ability of the majority of Portsmouth’s youth.
She said: ‘I genuinely think we’ll be hearing a lot more youth voices moving forward.
‘I hear all the time that people don’t think they can make a difference - but these guys have realised already that they can.’