I wanted to give a bit more insight into who I am and how and incredible experience has shaped my leadership style.
One of the accomplishments for which I am most proud, was this past year when I was elected as the Renfrew County District School Board (RCDSB) Student Trustee on May 1st, 2014 at the RCDSB office for the term August 1st, 2014 – July 31st, 2015. A select group of 18-22 student representatives from the seven (7) secondary schools within the RCDSB elected me into this position. What an experience!
The Renfrew County District School Board is comprised of nine Trustees; one being the Student Trustee. Ultimately, the role of Student Trustee is to bring the student voice to the board. The Student Trustee provides the other trustees, the Board Director, and the Renfrew County community with insight into secondary student life within the seven (7) secondary school environments of the district. A greater awareness of mutual issues among the schools, students, and school staff comes as a result of the insight that the Student Trustee provides. The RCDSB is able to grow to provide the best educational system for both students and educators with this student leadership position.
Throughout my year I attended 12 meetings- both committee and Board meetings. Committee meetings allowed for deep discussion of issues and matters, and Board meetings allowed for the communication of Board decisions and other information to the community.
As the Student Trustee, I was eligible to voice concerns, comments and questions at committee meetings and also prepared reports for the public Board meetings. I also answered several questions of the other trustees and Director pertaining to the development of my own secondary school—Madawaska Valley District High School (MVDHS)—into a kindergarten to grade 12 school in the coming 2016. With this development, the Board was very interested in the opinion of a student of the school; they were interested in what areas of the school they should try to enhance instead of changing and relocating. They also wondered what the Madawaska community felt towards the transformation; all of this information I was able to be provide to them through the Student Trustee position.
With seven (7) different secondary schools scattered throughout 7,645.68 square kilometres (County of Renfrew), the needs of students range across the county. As the Student Trustee I organized a Student Summit meeting with the 18-22 students from each of the 7 secondary institutions who were a part of their school’s Student Council. The students were able to express the needs and future aspirations of the students in their areas which gave me that knowledge, and through me, the Board was able to obtain that knowledge. Teaching practices can continue to evolve to enhance and encourage a positive learning environment through the communication between students and educators.
The Student Trustee also is given many incredible experiences which allow for personal growth and development. The Ontario Student Trustees Association/ L’Association des eleves conseillers and conseilleres de l’Ontario (OSTA-AECO) is an organization comprised of Student Trustees who organize conferences to allow all of the student trustees across Ontario—French and English, catholic and public—to connect and network. Networking is the major goal of the organization because it allows student trustees and especially those originating from similar rural or urban areas to share ideas and advice—what are the needs of the students and how can they be catered to? I was able to attend the OSTA-AECO Fall General Meeting (FGM) in October in Toronto as well as the OSTA_AECO Annual General Meeting (AGM) in May in Toronto. Each meeting had a different message for the Student Trustees, although the motive to allow for the connection between students with similar motives remained consistent. New relationships formed between like-minded students, and some that have the potential to last a lifetime.
The Student Trustee is viewed as a leader and this view allows them to become an even stronger and more apparent leader. I was given the opportunity to CO-MC at an event called Amplify which encourages young people to use their voice—an absolutely incredible experience! I also had the pleasure of speaking in front of a group of adults comprised of parents and educators on a student view of mental health. Through these public speaking opportunities I became increasingly comfortable with public speaking which empowered me to more effectively communicate with others.
Mental health became the focus of my term. The students of the Student Summit expressed an incredible amount of passion towards this topic. A main accomplishment of my term was the board wide Mental Health Awareness Day that all of the schools within the RCDSB participated in. With the passionate and determined student leaders of the county, this event became a reality on May 7th, 2015. Various activities were organized in each school for students to participate in to gain further knowledge on mental health. One activity was Mind Globe Making. A mind globe is a clear vessel filled with water and glitter and dish soap. When shaken the glitter disperses- it exemplifies our human thoughts when they are disorganized which affect humans to feel confused. If the vessel is unshaken the glitter will rest on the bottom; this exemplifies an organized mind and an unaffected human. The crucial message to communicate to students through this activity is that the longer the vessel is shaken, the longer the glitter will remain dispersed and disorganized which can result in negative mental health. Humans cannot have confused and mixed-up minds for long periods of time, as I explained to many students. If they do they put themselves at risk of mental health. The length of time that human thoughts stay disorganized is the ultimate dictator between positive and negative mental health. Students also united together in green on this day- the mental health awareness color.
As my term has come to its end, I reminisce on my experience and the knowledge it gave me. One thing I know for sure is the importance of the role of the Student Trustee.
Communication is one of the most valuable tools, and with the Student Trustee, communication is maintained between the students and the educators. As the honorary Minister of Education, Liz Sandals, identified, “It is an extraordinary role.”
I will take this experience and the incredible opportunity that was granted to me as I continue my education at the university level and ultimately into my professional career.
Keep tuned in,