Meet Grade 12 student Paige Wallace, Student Council President at Cathedral High School and Grade 12 student Alice Okpere from St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School.
The students, who were elected/appointed to represent the student voice on the 2022-2023 Board of Trustees, attended their first Board Meeting on August 30. The Student Trustee role is a non-voting position required by law under Ontario Regulation 7/07 of the Education Act.Alice Okpere
Becoming Student Trustee has been a natural progression for Alice who has served on her school’s student council each year consecutively since grade 6.
“I really strive to make a difference because I know what it’s like to rely on other people to help you,” says Alice, recalling the support she and her family received upon coming to Canada. “I want to be able to give back to the community that gave to me.”
Calling the board “a family of overachievers,” she says that whether through We Scare Hunger, food drives, fundraisers, or the system-wide Toonies for Tuition campaign, “we are always serving our community.”
After two plus years of COVID-19 restrictions, Alice is excited to return to the full high school experience, including watching her friends’ games and seeing school spirit come back. Areas in which she expects to focus much of her attention this year are mental health, equity, diversity and inclusion, including LGBTQ+, cultural awareness and appreciation, as well as consent – “setting boundaries, which a lot of people are scared to do.”
She and Paige also hope to leverage social media to reach the students they serve. “I feel a lot of people don’t know that student trustees exist,” she says. “So, for the voices to be heard, I think they first need to know that there is a place (and people) that they can come to.” She’s quick to add that “it’s not just for high schools” – elementary students are encouraged to come forward with their ideas, too.
Beyond high school, Alice would like to study law or politics at an Ivy League school. Paige Wallace
Paige has wanted to be Student Council President since she was in 5th grade. Being a Student Trustee is icing on the cake.
“The role of student trustee is a great example of how our board strives to hear the opinions and thoughts of students and implement lasting programs, opportunities that can best support us in having a great school experience and prepare us for life after elementary and high school,” she says.
Now that COVID restrictions have been removed, she hopes to bring the energy back. She also wants to promote mental health, particularly in elementary schools, so that students are not only aware of the signs and risks, but know who to turn to.
Diversity is another area of focus.
“At Cathedral, we have a program called NYA:WEH and it’s to support Indigenous students. It’s fantastic. They really do a lot of work in our school.” Paige hopes to add the land acknowledgement to school announcements to “show appreciation.”
Like Alice, Paige also wants to open up the conversation on consent, not just in relationships, but in everyday life, e.g., consent to touch or take a photo. She sees social media as a tool to share important information on mental health, diversity, and self-respect.
“We also have Presidents’ Council, so if we hear something at our schools that might be able to relate to us as trustees, we then have an opportunity to speak with our peers about that and figure out a plan.”
Paige’s future plans include applying to the University of Ottawa for political science, with a minor in pre-law.