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Above: Tara Cronkwright in the hallway of Major Ballachey Public School, where she is Vice-Principal.

Grand Erie Administrator Reflects on Early Leadership Experience as Board Gears Up for Student Trustee Elections

Tara Cronkwright is in her first year as a Vice-Principal, but her leadership experience in Grand Erie goes way back… all the way back to her days as a student, to be exact.

“The year that I was a Student Trustee, I remember sitting at the table during an ad hoc committee meeting with Superintendents and Trustees and being blown away because they wanted to know my thoughts,” Cronkwright recalls. “That moment was hugely impactful for me, and I still think about it.”

It was finding her own voice – and the teachers and leaders who helped empower it – that’s had the biggest influence on her career and goals. In the role of Student Trustee and as President of the Student Senate, Cronkwright had her say on a range of issues, providing the ever-important student voice to inform the work of the school board. She dealt with scheduling and timetables as part of the calendar committee, and even got exposure to controversial community issues, such as the planning that took place at the time around the future of Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School (BCI).

It was in Grade 10 that Cronkwright says she first felt a fire in her belly for leadership, and while the former Paris District High School student counts herself lucky to have had many incredible mentors, she credits one of her teachers with helping nudge her in the right direction at the time.

Right: Cronkwright in Grade 12 taking part in an event as part of HOBY Youth Leadership, an opportunity that presented itself when she got involved in leadership at the school level.

“It was Deb Barbon [now Vice-Principal at BCI] who encouraged me to get more involved, and really fostered that in me,” says Cronkwright, who joined the Peer Council at the school that year, which led to other leadership opportunities outside the school. “She was the first one to say, ‘Hey, this is something you’d be really great at,’ and I think it’s incredibly important for young people to hear that.”

Cronkwright kept those lessons with her as she pursued her own teaching career, and working with intermediate students who are just beginning to find their own voices has been especially meaningful.

“It was such an important part of my young adulthood that I really embraced the chance to help develop other student leaders,” she reflects. “My job as teacher was not to tell them what to think, but how to think.”

Student Trustee selections are currently underway in Grand Erie. Applications have been received, and a student election meeting is scheduled for next month. At the meeting, three Student Trustees are selected to represent all Grand Erie students. To ensure that the diversity of student voices is heard and reflected, one Student Trustee is elected from the northern area of the Board (Brant County/City of Brantford), one is elected from the southern area of the Board (Haldimand County/Norfolk County), and one is elected from the Indigenous student communities within the Board. Grand Erie recognizes and values the need for strong student voices to guide its work, and the Student Trustee selection process is supported by the Achievement pillar in the Multi-Year Plan, setting high expectations, and monitoring, measuring, and reflecting on outcomes.

These days, Cronkwright is grateful to be doing what she loves, empowering the next generation of young leaders, and supporting the staff who help them get there.

So what sort of advice does Cronkwright have for Grand Erie students who are considering leadership paths?

“Your voice is important, it matters, and like so many things in school, work, and life, you get what you put into it,” she says. “Your next opportunity could be life-changing, so go for it!”

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