Volunteerism alive and well in Mississauga

Although she’s only 17, Pujita Verma is well known in the city for her efforts in both the literary arts and the environment.

As Mississauga’s Youth Poet Laureate, she serves as a literary ambassador for youth in the city. Her aim: to elevate the status of poetry, literary arts and young writers through community youth poetry events and projects.

As secretary for Ink Movement Mississauga, Pujita has volunteered for the past two years to help make tools for self-expression more accessible for youth in the city. She has been a member of the Glenforest Secondary School Student Writer’s Guild since 2014, performed at poetry slams across the GTA and recently placed as a national finalist at the 2018 Poetry in Voice recitation competition.

“I’ve been interested in general creative writing since the second grade,” she said. Poetry came later, in Grade 10, when a teacher challenged her to try a type of writing she had never tried before.

“Everyone has poetry in them,” she said. “It just takes a bit of confidence to get it on paper. It’s so liberal. There’s no formal way of writing: as long as you’re honest, its poetry.”

Her work reflects mental well-being, life, the environment and the miraculous nature of seemingly ordinary things.

As a member of the Peel Environmental Youth Alliance executive team, she has encouraged high school students across the region to help protect the environment. The Alliance is a regional network of more than 1,400 action-oriented Peel students concerned about environmental issues and determined to make a positive change.

It started with a stint on the Glenforest Green Team.

“I had a lot of fun,” she said. “A lot of the time we think of environmentalism as this distant concept but when you start working on it, it’s really cool.”

She’s also a student representative on the Mississauga Environment Action Committee.

Despite a busy schedule, Pujita doesn’t see her volunteering efforts as a job.

“I never really think of these things as work,” she said. “It’s my passion, so it’s more fun. I can actually say going to all these events is my time off.

But she did admit it was almost surreal when she heard a list of her achievements read by Councillor Carolyn Parrish at the recent Mississauga Civic Recognition evening, honouring volunteers throughout the city.

“I thought, ‘Wow, I really did all of that in high school?’”

A high school graduate this summer, in the fall, she will be taking university courses in social sciences and literature.

As the interview was winding down, Pujita was asked what people need to know about her.

“I have really neat handwriting,” she said, with a laugh. So, now you know.

Photo: Pujita Verma, seen here with Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, was recently honoured for her volunteering efforts at the 2018 Civic Recognition evening.

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