A lot of people my age ask me why a lot of us younger voters don't bother to turn up when it's election time. As a younger candidate trying to do things differently, this has been one of my biggest goals -- getting my peers to vote for me.
So I spend most of days standing on corners in my Vancouver Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, on the Drive, in the West End or in Kits talking to people, sharing ideas and listening to stories.
What I've been hearing is that younger people are turned off because we don't see people like us running for office -- lots of the candidates seem bland and out-of-touch. Case in point: when wildly popular park board candidate Trish Kelly was turfed by Vision Vancouver because of her years-old monologue about masturbation, a lot of people tuned out. (By the way, Trish Kelly has endorsed my campaign -- thank you Trish!)
We're tired of the whole "us" versus "them" partisanship that makes politics seem so petty compared to the real-life challenges we face, like using five Earths worth of resources when we only have one world.
So, I've been trying to do things differently. First, I've learned that conversations, instead of just advertising, are important. I've spoken to about 6,000 people in the last two months. Some conversations are quick, others take time; but the end goal is the same: connect, learn, and inspire a vote for progressive change.
To be a candidate who actually gets elected, I also have to be unique. As far as I know, I'm the only candidate that's marketing by getting matches on the dating apps Tinder, Grindr, and Scruff. I figure these are some of the best places to meet people these days. I go where my peers are and use the technology designed to connect us. (Thanks for all the matches out there -- 400 of you on Tinder in the last 10 days!)
Instead of driving a car around town -- I don't even own a car -- I bike around town. A big Vote Green triangle hanging from my bike frame and my fluorescent green helmet are all about getting noticed. Have you seen me?
I'm trying to do things differently, to break through, to inspire voters, so that I can get elected to work for the change I know is possible.
I'm the only working teacher running for Vancouver School Board, and I'm running because I see a lot of students falling through the cracks and not getting an education that will best build them up for a quickly changing future.
I'm also out. Some people wonder, why does it matter you're gay? You're right, it shouldn't. But I use my experience of feeling like an outsider to make sure marginalized people are included, heard, and supported. I want all kids, regardless of their background, to feel like their differences make their communities stronger. They don't need to shy away.
We have some great diversity policies in our schools, but sadly these policies aren't always implemented.
Last year, when I was substitute teaching at a south-side high school, I witnessed daily homophobic harassment of a boy. I kept intervening to try and help. Sadly, I noticed that nobody else seemed to be stepping in.
When I spoke to the principal about the lack of support, I'm not sure she fully understood. She also told me many parents in the area weren't keen on the policies to support LGBTQ kids. I was shocked.
I then realized that you can have good policies but schools have to be held accountable for implementing them so all students are protected and supported. While I applaud the amazing work done to revise the Vancouver School Board's sexual orientation and gender identities policy earlier this year, I worry it won't be implemented fully and in a way that ensures community education and progress.
We have immense diversity in our schools: First Nations, LGBTQ, special needs students and new Canadians. And don't forget students living in poverty whose parents often can't even take the time off work to and ask for funding assistance.
No school is stronger than its most vulnerable students -- we have to fix that. Too many students face discrimination and learning barriers. We need to make sure support actually reaches kids who need it, or else what's the point?
I'm a young candidate trying to get more young people engaged in our great democratic system. I'm also determined to advocate for all vulnerable young people, especially our students who are usually not heard.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: