March 3, 2016
Student Trustees Return from OSTA Conference
Student trustees with District School Board Ontario North East are working hard to make a difference. Kendra Cove of Kapuskasing District High School and Jacob McGonigal of Kirkland Lake District Composite School recently returned from the annual Ontario Student Trustee Conference held in Ottawa February 18th to 21st. In a presentation to DSB Ontario North East Trustees and Administration at the March 1st board meeting, Cove and McGonigal outlined their participation at the conference and what they learned from the first-time experience.
"It was an opportunity for us to interact with other student trustees across the province, and collaborate on ways to improve the quality of education in Ontario," said McGonigal. OSTA (Ontario Student Trustees' Association) is the largest student stakeholder in education and the voice for student vision. As the representatives of over 2-million students, they act as consultants on policy for the Ministry of Education, assist stakeholders in the education community and work to unite all student trustees across the province.
"We were able to hear from a very impressive list of keynote speakers like Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Burlington MP Karina Gould, Senator Larry Campbell, and Federal Aboriginal Affairs Policy Analyst John Moses," said McGonigal. "Kendra and I had the opportunity to engage in discussion with student trustees from our area and confer about issues that greatly impact students in our region. We discussed at length about embracing Aboriginal culture in our schools and acknowledging the issues within the Native culture."
"I really enjoyed listening to MP Karina Gould," added Cove. "She shared her overwhelming positivity of overcoming barriers set by the people who were against her. We also heard from a student named Elliot who addressed the OSTA about various lesbian, gay and transgendered issues."
The trustees' presentation also included a recommendation that the creation of a student senate comprised of student leaders from schools across the Board would be beneficial to the student body. "As student trustees, our duty is to represent the student perspective in decisions about education in the North. Which means we are responsible for representing the student voice from Hearst to Temagami. Kendra and I would be able to present student issues, comments and concerns to the Board more efficiently with a student senate," said McGonigal. As an example McGonigal explained how his school, Kirkland Lake District Composite, held a Red Dress campaign to raise awareness of missing Aboriginal women. McGonigal said that with the help of a senate, the campaign could have been Board-wide.
"Attending this conference has provided me with a sense of belonging," commented Cove. "During the limited time we had, I was able to meet so many new people who shared common goals. As student trustees, attending Board meetings are only one small portion of the similarities that we shared. OSTA/AECO was an incredible experience."
"I'm pleased that we were able to send our student trustees to this conference," said Board Vice-Chair Bob Brush. "There were a number of years when we didn't send our student trustees... and there was a huge void. They never had an appreciation of the provincial issues. But now they have a greater appreciation of their role. To me this pays endless benefits for our Board to have them attend these conferences and network with students across the province. They did excellent work."
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