This is the nineteenth in our series of stories celebrating the outstanding accomplishments of youth in our community. These inspirational young adults are enriching our lives with their passion and commitment to the betterment of society.
I first met Jillian in April 2013. During the election campaign a number of meet and greets were hosted throughout the riding. On this particular evening, we rented the Saanich Fusion clubhouse on Tyndall Road to provide a venue for Gordon Head residents to raise and discuss issues of their choice. Mid way through the evening, a nine-year-old girl entered the clubhouse and asked me if I could ask the audience to sign her petition. I had no idea who she was and I was of course a little leery so I asked the young girl what it was for. She explained that she wanted to petition Saanich to allow miniature goats in back yards like in Seattle. I was impressed by her passion and commitment and offered Jillian McCue the floor to pitch her cause to the crowd. By the time that she was done, every single person in the room had signed the petition. I had no idea that two years later this remarkable young girl would likely realize her dream. After presenting to Saanich Council and subsequently three of its advisory committees, last week Saanich’s Environment and Natural Areas Advisory Committee, chaired by Councillor Dean Murdock, recommended that a feasibility study be conducted and that a pilot project be set up in Jillian’s back yard!
Jillian is a Grade 6 student at Gordon Head Middle School. She is the youngest of 5 children in her family, with three older brothers and one older sister. Jillian has loved playing soccer since age 7 and will be playing in the Under 13 (Gold) division in the fall – the first year playing on the full size field. She also loves gymnastics and cross-country running.
Jillian is an 11 year old who has for over two years now embarked on a mission. Few youth her age are as engaged as Jillian is in her community and especially in municipal politics. She became keenly interested in miniature goats as pets at the age of nine after she was introduced to two backyard-dwelling goats that belonged to family friends who lived in San Bernardino, California. Jillian, who appropriately was born in the Year of the Goat, took an instant liking to the goats and thought it would be wonderful to have a goat or two in her own back yard. Discovering that Saanich municipal by-laws did not permit the keeping of goats in urban areas, Jillian set out to change that.
Jillian did her homework and undertook her own research. She learned that Seattle City Council had approved keeping miniature goats as pets in 2007. An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted that “female and neutered goats do not generate significant odors”. Wanting to test this for herself, Jillian embarked upon her own scientific research with the “Goat Poo Smell Study”. The driving questions for her research were:
1) Do Victoria residents find that dog poo is more smelly than miniature goat poo?
2) How much more or less smelly is dog poo than miniature goat poo?
and her hypothesis was that goat poo did not smell as bad as dog poo.
Participants in the study (32 in total) rated from 1 to 5 (a Likert Scale) the smelliness of two bags (bag A or bag B) of unidentified droppings (one was from a dog; the other from a goat). Her survey data confirmed her hypothesis. On average, dog droppings smelled twice as bad as goat droppings. The survey was done at an ideal location – Beacon Hill Petting Zoo, a place Jillian loves to visit and play with the miniature goats.
Armed with her research study, a pro-goat petition signed by 132 people in her neighbourhood (including me from that April 2012 event) and a well put together powerpoint presentation that demonstrated her knowledge about goats, Jillian headed to a Saanich Council meeting in May of this year. Her thoroughly researched and powerful presentation addressed the common misconceptions concerning miniature goats; it also detailed the positive aspects of having backyard goats in urban areas. Jillian easily handled questions posed to her by Councillors after her presentation. After further deliberations, Saanich Council referred the matter to three committees. Jillian had her work cut out for her in the lead up to the three additional presentations she gave in June.
Two years after undertaking this mission, Jillian has learned a tremendous amount about goats and municipal politics. She has met with elected politicians, learned how to execute a petition, conducted research, learned to give persuasive presentations to council and committees and garnered considerable media attention. Television, radio and newspapers all picked up the story, including CTV (twice), CHEK (twice), CBC, CFAX, Ocean 98.5, Times-Colonist and Saanich News. Having to give ten media interviews following an appearance before Saanich Council would be a daunting task for most adults, let alone an 11 year old, but Jillian handled it like a pro. She won’t give up and pledges to persevere with the hope for a positive outcome from Saanich at an upcoming Council meeting.
We were not surprised when Jillian told us she “always puts her hand up in class” and “likes public speaking and talking to adults”. Apparently, it takes her a long time to deliver papers on her paper route because she frequently stops and talks to people in their gardens along the way.
Jillian’s numerous other activities including babysitting (she has completed the babysitter training course), volunteering her time to help serve homeless people in the community and participating in fundraising events for Hospice and the Cancer Society. In one cancer campaign she shaved her head and raised over $1,000.00 by going door to door in her neighbourhood. Shortly after shaving her head, she was in the city finals for cross country and was mistaken for a boy and placed in the wrong chute – placing her in 58th place when she actually came in 2nd in her girl’s age category race. As the photo to the left illustrates, this was somewhat confusing for Jillian when she received her 58th place participation paper (instead of a 2nd place ribbon), but it all got worked out and, once again, she handled herself with maturity (and good humour).
Jillian loves to create videos and continues to develop her video-editing skills. She has her own website and YouTube channel where, for example, you can see her present an instructional video on how to bake Apple Crisp or her Easy Chocolate Cake. Jillian loves cooking and I must say, she is a great cook! When she heard about me breaking my nose (by walking into a glass window while texting!) she dropped by my house with some of Jillian’s home-baked chocolate cupcakes. Yum!
I guess that’s what’s special about Jillian. She is mature beyond her years. She is thoughtful and compassionate. She is determined and confident. And, she is just a wonderful kid. When asked what her dream job would be in the future, she almost immediately responded (in order) “a soccer player, Prime Minister or a singer”. After watching Jillian navigate the complexities of municipal politics we’re convinced that her determination, skills and ability to take on big challenges, could allow her to achieve all three.