By: Jonathan Glustein
I got involved in politics at an age most people would describe as “early”. It was grade 11 and extracurricular activities had been cancelled at my high school. Instead of rejoicing at my extra free time, I decided that this unfortunate event represented a new opportunity: I was going to volunteer on a political campaign.
I had no clue how to get started in politics before my mother received a random email from an organization called “CJPAC” that talked about getting involved in the political process. She forwarded it to me, and I decided to reply. I had already sent dozens of emails to other people in politics to no avail, so what was one more? To my surprise, not only did CJPAC respond, they connected me within days to senior campaign staff and had me out on the campaign trail within weeks. CJPAC also checked up on me after every campaign event I attended to ensure it was a success. When no one would respond to my emails, CJPAC did, and stayed committed to fostering my political involvement.
To borrow from a popular Passover song, it would have been enough! Yet, CJPAC’s assistance in my political journey was far from over. I was invited to join CJPAC’s Generation program, which consisted of political training sessions followed by an intensive weekend in Ottawa where we met with Ministers, Members of Parliament, senior political staffers, as well as students and former students who had gone through the Fellowship program. We received unparalleled training and I met some incredibly interesting people.
After the program, I was no longer just someone who knocked on doors – I had the skills to be an important contributor to any political campaign at a higher level. The Generation program helped make me an indispensable resource in politics, and I must have done something right, as the next year I was asked to be Co-Chair of the program.
Now entering its fifth year, CJPAC’s Generation program has provided hundreds of high school students across the country with an early start to political involvement and an invaluable experience with top decision makers in Canadian politics.
After continuing my involvement with CJPAC as a Summer Intern, the natural next step was to apply for CJPAC’s flagship program: the Fellowship. This experience built on the knowledge I gained from Generation and amplified it ten times. In five whirlwind days of political training, in addition to conference calls throughout the year, I learned about effective issue framing, social media usage, and communications, among various other topics. I also met incredible, inspiring people from across Canada and across party boundaries, and made friendships that transcend politics. At McGill, my university, this training was especially crucial in our campaign on campus against BDS, which we successfully defeated for the third time in 18 months. I can attest that the knowledge I gained as part of the Fellowship was pivotal in our campaign’s victory.
Since initially getting involved with CJPAC, I have volunteered on multiple campaigns in two provinces, and have held roles such as Social Media Director, Youth Director and Policy Director of a party’s provincial youth wing. I have been given serious responsibilities on serious campaigns. It is safe to say that none of this would have been possible without CJPAC. From the beginning of my political journey over four years ago, CJPAC has been there for me, providing guidance and training, from the Generation program in high school to the Fellowship. My involvement still isn’t finished – I hope to come back next year as a Senior Fellow and continue to benefit and learn from the priceless political training CJPAC offers.
So no matter what age, whether in high school or university, I encourage you to get involved with CJPAC and apply for one of their programs; it’s a connection that just might change your life. I know it changed mine.
Jonathan Glustein is a CJPAC Generation and Fellowship alum and former summer intern.