2 min

Meet one of Ottawa’s youngest leaders

Teenager Hannah Watt sits on two of the city's well-known community organizations

Hannah Watt is a board member of both Capital Pride and PTS. Credit: Adrienne Ascah

At 18, Hannah Watt already sits on the board of two of Ottawa’s most prominent queer organizations.

As a Capital Pride (CP) board member and director of youth and families, Watt is highly visible and respected for her work with Et Cetera, CP’s youth branch. In October 2013, Watt expanded her volunteerism to become a PTS board member.

“I think it’s important for everyone to volunteer,” she says. “Specifically, I love volunteering because it’s a really good way for me to make a difference . . . I find it’s a really great way that I can get in the community and decide what I think needs time and attention, what needs fundraising, what needs support.”

For Watt, volunteering was a natural progression from attending events at PTS and CP, especially during Pride. Getting connected to queer youth groups is a good way to meet friends, especially for Watt, who was home-schooled.

“I started identifying as queer when I was about 11 years old, and I started attending PTY, PTS’s queer youth group, when I was 15,” she says. “I was home-schooled all growing up, so I met my peers through LGBT youth groups.”

Watt came out to her parents at age 16, and they were accepting. Having family and peer support means a lot to her, and she’s passionate about helping to build bridges between queer youth, their families and the rest of the community.

“There just really needs to be that representation as high as the (CP) board level to make sure there’s always youth representation and things are always safe and friendly for families and children,” Watt says.

On Nov 23, the Ottawa Police Services’ GLBT liaison committee held a youth round table at Ottawa City Hall to find out why more young people don’t join the committee. Watt was planning to go but was unable to attend because of illness. Although there’s often a stereotypical assumption that youth are apathetic, there are legitimate barriers that can prevent young people from taking on volunteer commitments, she says.

Between school, part-time jobs, family commitments, transportation issues and parents who control their teens’ schedules, many youth are unable to free themselves up to volunteer, Watt says.

For her, though, volunteering is a powerful and rewarding way of making her mark, of doing what she can to make the community more inclusive and more fun for youth and their families.

Jodie McNamara, CP’s chair, says Watt’s work with CP is almost like a full-time job, but Watt still wanted to do more. She’d already been volunteering for PTS, showing a particular talent for fundraising, when Claudia Van den Heuvel, PTS’s executive director, suggested Watt join PTS’s board of directors.

“Claudia called me up and said she thought I’d be a good fit with the [October 2013] AGM coming up,” Watt says. “They needed some more people, and she called me up and asked if I was interested, and I thought it would be a fabulous idea.”

Robert Crevier, PTS’s board president, says Watt has already had an impact.

“Hannah Watt is our youngest board member,” he says. “She’s actually chair of our fundraising committee. She’s a very dynamite individual. She was one of our major, major fundraisers for the [2013] AIDS Walk.”

Just as she does in her roles at CP, Watt brings energy and enthusiasm to her commitment to PTS.

“I’d just like to see PTS continue to be such an asset in Ottawa’s queer community,” she says. “I’d like to see it continue to widen its networks and gain strength and be the amazing resource that it is.”