A recent Yorkton Regional High School graduate will be representing southeast Saskatchewan on a trade mission to China this summer.
Nikera Toma was selected as one of 35 youth from 650 applicants to participate in Global Vision’s flagship Junior Team Canada program.
The non-profit Global Vision was founded by Terrance Clifford, MP for London-Middlesex from 1984 to 1993, to “give youth hands-on experiences in international trade and community leadership, to produce top global leaders that build the future of Canada,” according to the organization’s website.
Although just out of high school, Toma already has some business credentials having been part of building a successful business through the entrepreneurship class at the Regional last fall.
Toma was assistant vice-president of sales and marketing for String Theory, a company that manufactured and sold decorative lamps constructed from string and glue.
Being selected for Junior Team Canada involves a rigourous process.
First, prospective candidates must attend one of several economic roundtables. Toma attended one in Calgary where she had to make presentations to strangers on Parks Canada and branding western Canada.
Participants in the roundtable were then eligible to apply for Junior Team Canada, which included an essay on why the applicants felt they were suited to the mission, what made them unique, how they planned to raise the $5,500 required and what sector they planned to target.
“I told them that I was determined and open-minded and I really love challenges,” Toma said, adding her bilingualism support from family and friends were also assets.
Global Vision shortlisted the applicants based on their performance during the economic roundtables and the strength of their applications. Those wishing to continue then had to attend the National Youth Ambassadors Caucus in Ottawa in June where they met with various government officials including senators, government ministers, MPs and business leaders.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but they make you feel really comfortable and they really push you to try your hardest and put yourself out of your comfort zone, which is a good thing,” Toma said.
She also credits her mother with preparing her for the enterprise.
“I think I’ve been raised in a way that pushes me to do new things and not be afraid of going to new places and experiencing new things,” she said. “My mom pushed for us to be independent and open-minded, always trying new things even though you don’t want to, just basically pushing us to diversify.”
She was also able to draw on the experience of friends from Canora who went on the mission last year.
“When they came back, I noticed a change in them,” Toma explained. “They acted more professional and they were more comfortable with themselves in various situations that before they would have been more nervous.
Currently, Toma is fundraising targeting, for obvious reasons, the agricultural sector. As the money comes together, she is developing the specific mandate she will take to China.
“Once I have all my money raised I go with the biggest sponsors, those are my main mission because I have to spend more time doing what they’ve asked me to do in China in filling out their mandate,” she said. “I hope I will bring back some valuable information for them.
In addition to the business goals, Toma hopes to fulfill personal and community objectives.
To her own benefit she sees both professional and personal opportunities.
“I feel like it’s going to help me a lot professionally for my future career,” she said. “It’s just really good self-development and it really opens up your mind to the world, how trade actually works on an international level. I hope to gain confidence, better speaking skills, public speaking, presentations, I kind of struggle with that and also, a better understanding of the intricacies of trade.”
On the community side, she wants to inspire other young people.
“I hope to really expose people to possibilities,” she said. “It kind of sounds cheesy, but anything is possible; you can do what you want you just need to work hard at it and keep going. So, that’s the message I want to send to the youth.”