Three students, one from each of the Interlake School Division’s high schools, discussed their experiences from attending a youth education forum to the board of trustees at their meeting in Stonewall on May 27.
Hannah France (Warren Collegiate Institute), Kalista Nugent (Stonewall Collegiate Institute) and Haley Charison (Teulon Collegiate Institute) were all selected to participate in an education forum hosted by the province’s Commission on K-12 Education at Canad Inns Transcona in Winnipeg on May 3. The purpose of the event was to involve students in the process of reviewing Manitoba’s public education system, which had been ongoing since the nine-person commission was formed last January.
Approximately 130 students from across the province took part in the forum and shared their own ideas and experiences with other students and educators on ways the public school system can be improved. But it wasn’t all serious.
“My favourite part about the experience was we had to build (with) Lego,” France told the board. “We had a topic: what was your dream school? What do you expect in a school? To get us all comfortable with our groups, we each had a Lego set so we would build our Lego set and that would be our topic of discussion.”
“It was very eye-opening and I felt like my voice was heard while I was there,” Nugent added. “I had a lot of good conversations from a variety of people from a variety of schools throughout Manitoba.”
Charison was the only student from a rural school in her group, giving the other students another perspective on schooling.
“I was the only one from a super small school. Everyone else had over 500 kids in the schools they were in. So, I was the one giving our view of rural schools and schools who don’t necessarily have enough funding or enough teachers or enough students to give every course possible,” she said.
Some of the other topics discussed at the forum were mental health supports, student safety, the varying availability of courses from one school to the next and the need for teachers to devote their time to help students struggling to complete assignments.
The ability for students to express themselves was also a pressing topic.
“At our school, it’s nice. You can express yourself (and) no one will say anything to you. But in the city, they’re super not okay, necessarily, with how you express yourself in every way. They want to feel safe and be able to be who they want to be without being judged,” Charison explained.
When asked about their idea of the “perfect school,” the students mentioned outdoor spaces, a high number of teachers and inclusiveness among fellow peers. They also told the board that they would like to see teachers teach more than one subject and schools offer more courses preparing students for post-secondary education.
Charison’s group was tasked to create “the ideal student” at the forum. In their minds, the ideal student would be financially responsible, possess leadership, communication and language skills, and overcome obstacles.
The students’ supervisor and TCI principal Paul Magnan told the board that the ideas
students brought up at the forum — some posted on sticky notes — were real eye-openers.
“Some of the stuff they ended up talking about was very powerful … I’ll tell you one of them, ‘Children should not be developing anxiety or depression from school.’ Pretty powerful things that kids are going ahead and saying,” he said.