Merging academia and volunteerism


Fourth-year UTM student Karina Merida is a member of Peel Children and Youth Initiative Youth Advisory Council. She has also been one of three youth representatives on PCYI’s board of directors since 2012.

PCYI is a non-profit organization that is committed to improving the lives of children and youth to ensure that youth reach their full potential as they grow from infancy to adulthood.

Merida first found out about an opportunity through the PCYI website. She then contacted the youth coordinator and learned more about the organization.

“Before they implement any projects or move on with any initiatives regarding youth, they ask the Youth Advisory Council for input,” says Merida. Its reasons like these that led to her volunteering with the organization.

“I wanted to give more time to organizations that had a good cause,” says the biology and computer science double major.

As a member of the council, she brainstorms with her fellow members about ways to address current issues affecting youth and how to bring awareness about such issues. The council then proposes an initiative, which Merida discusses with the PCYI board.

Merida is one of the youngest members on the board, sitting with representatives, CEOs, and leaders in the youth sector, which include Peel Regional Police, Peel Children’s Aid Society, and ErinoakKids, just to name a few.

“As a youth representative for the board, I fill them in on what the council has been doing and what we think of the initiatives or projects they’ve been working on,” Merida says of her role on the board.

As part of her roles in both the council and the board of directors, Merida has been very involved with many of their initiatives. One such initiative that she helped organize was the Peel Youth Leaders Conference focusing on mental health, held last Saturday here in Mississauga.

“Everyone that I talked to after the conference said [that] they [had] learned a lot,” says Merida.

“We had youth speakers come in and talk about mental health. We also had a lot of representatives from organizations that deal with mental health for youth,” says Merida, adding that the conference was her proudest achievement within the organization.