Connecting to the community brings an array of benefits to young people, from learning valuable life skills and gaining insights into human rights and citizenship to the satisfaction of actively contributing to their local area. In addition, being involved in positive civic action encourages teens to play a pivotal role in their own development and gives them a sense of belonging, ownership and identity.
For Quinn Rimmer, community service is part of his DNA. The Year 12 student has been a volunteer lifeguard at the Mount Maunganui Surf Lifesaving Club for four years, is frequently involved in ACG Tauranga's school initiatives and projects, and in 2022, he was selected as a Youth MP, representing ACT's Simon Court.
Quinn's tenure as a Youth MP began in March. Alongside his myriad responsibilities, one of his primary duties was to attend the recent triennial two-day Youth Parliament event at the Beehive.
"I found the Youth Parliament to be highly informative about our political system and how our nation's decisions are made," he says. "One of the biggest lessons it confirmed is that you need to work hard to get ahead. There was a lot of talk at the Youth Parliament about rapidly expanding social programmes to support young people, which reminded me that you are in control of your life. Good self-responsibility will take you anywhere, which is true for politics as well."
Given a choice to focus on a speech to the House, debating a mock bill or participating in Question Time, Quinn selected the question time element. He then proceeded to ask Deputy PM and Minister of Finance Grant Robertson a series of hard-hitting questions regarding soaring inflation levels and the minister's previous decisions concerning New Zealand's COVID-19 response.
"I particularly enjoyed questioning Minister Robertson," he confirms. "And participating in the select committee activities was another highlight. I was lucky enough to have been pre-selected as part of the Environment Select Committee (which my MP is on in the real Parliament).
"Our inquiry topic was How New Zealand would meet its carbon zero commitments by 2050. And although I was representing a minority party, I gained enough committee votes to allow my content – which directly and measurably addressed our topic – into the select committee's presentation.
Another of his Youth MP tasks involved advocating for the community, so Quinn and fellow Youth MP Lily Pearce chose to focus on something that meant a great deal to them personally.
"For our self-initiated project, Lily (representing Minister Jan Tinetti) and I decided to work together to raise awareness for the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service's Easter fundraising appeal. We used our dual roles as Youth MPs and surf lifeguards/surf athletes to promote the appeal, and thanks to the public profile of our MPs, we were able to attract crucial media attention.
"We took the MPs out on our IRBs to give them a taste of what we do as volunteers, emphasise the surf club's importance in the local community, and explain the struggles it has been facing since Covid."
With such a treasure trove of memories to draw on, it was a challenge to select one favourite moment. However, the multi-talented teen is particularly grateful for the level of mentorship and guidance that he received.
"I was looking forward to being mentored by an MP, and this has certainly been the most rewarding aspect of the job. Simon has been a fantastic role model who has given amazing mentorship and shared his perspectives as an ACT MP. Getting to meet and talk with the Governor General Dame Cindy Kiro was also a high point, as was having honest conversations with people of different political beliefs."
And while he admits that a future in politics was never his aim, Quinn believes the last six months have been an incredibly worthwhile experience. As a firm advocate of the initiative, he encourages other socially active students to get involved.
"I would 100 per cent recommend it. You don't have to be politically engaged – lots of Youth MP's focused on social issues and support for mental health problems in this country."
Watch Quinn in action during Question Time at the 2022 Youth Parliament