Youth ambassadors in place to change how students use transit. Higher gas prices doing a large part of that job.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON., September  22, 2011 – Coming to a high school near you: keen, environmentally conscious Burlington Transit Youth Ambassadors prepared to wean a generation of students off the car and convince them to get on the bus.

Burlington Transit Youth Ambassadors gather in a bus shelter. Front row: YAs Benoit, Shaan, Billi and Harrison. Back row, BT’s Sandra Maxwell, YA Kayla and Burlington Green advisor Kale.

“Today’s youth are sensitive to the environment and know that to preserve the planet for generations to come we need to change behaviours today,” said Donna Shepherd, director of Burlington Transit. “Our Youth Ambassadors are the keenest of the keen. They know how important reducing our carbon footprint is, and they’re ready to spread the word.”

Known as BT YAs, five young ambassadors recently attended their first orientation session at BT headquarters, and there are more to come. To date, the program has three schools signed on – M.M. Robinson High School, Aldershot High School and Robert Bateman High School – with the aim of spreading the program into the remaining Burlington high schools this fall and winter.

Teaching students that QEW traffic can be avoided? A totally different lifestyle change would be needed to make that happen – and that is what the Ambassadors are setting out to do.


The BT YAs will spend the school year organizing and running transit promotions in their schools in a peer-to-peer approach designed to give the YAs flexibility and control over their events. “We encourage them to take ownership of the program and to really throw themselves into,” said Sandra Maxwell, BT’s marketing co-coordinator. “For this to work, it really has to be students talking honestly to students. We need to keep it real.”

“A sustainable environment is a major part of Burlington’s plan for the future,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “It is encouraging to see young people picking up the sustainability banner and working hard to convince their peers to use active transportation alternatives and to think twice before relying on the car.”


One of the first BTYA events was in support of World Car-Free Day. They were out in force on September 22, asking students, teachers and parents to leave the car at home.


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