From left to right: Student Trustee Aleena Skye poses with keynote speaker Johnny Henderson and fellow Student Trustees Maggie Baker and Keira Gayowsky.

Student Senate Adds Learners’ Voices to Board Planning

THURSDAY, NOV. 30, 2023


tudent senators representing secondary learners across Grand Erie gathered last week to learn, lead and inspire. The event, hosted by Student Trustees Maggie Baker, Keira Gayowsky and Aleena Skye, and held at Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School, included break-out brainstorming sessions zeroing in on topics students are prioritizing, networking with learners from other schools, and a keynote presentation by Johnny Henderson of the organization Live Different. 

Above: Aleena Skye leads a group discussion on environmental issues and solutions.

The break-out sessions allowed members of school senates and Grand Erie’s United Indigenous Student Senate to gravitate to the topics they felt most passionate about to problem-solve with other leaders, and start thinking through next steps. Sessions focused on environmentalism, mental health and well-being, and student voice. For Yusuf Aburkhes, a Grade 12 student from Pauline Johnson, the student voice session resonated with his own leadership trajectory. 

“I was very lucky because when I was in Grade 7 and 8, my teachers focused a lot on leadership and having a voice as a student, so I started Grade 9 having had a lot of experience being able to present myself and my ideas,” said Aburkhes, who joined his school’s student council in Grade 10 and has been involved since. “I think joining council was when it really started for me, being able to talk to other students on council and with teachers to solve problems and make changes.” 

The keynote by Henderson echoed many of those ideas, empowering learners to see their own and others’ potential even when faced with immense challenges. Through humour, interactive activities, videos and sharing aspects of his life experiences, he encouraged students to “own your story.” 

Above: Johnny Henderson inspires learners as part of the day’s keynote.

“It really aligned with a lot of the core values in our schools and within the board of leading, learning and inspiring, and building a sense of belonging within your school environment,” said Gayowsky, who attends Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School, and represents students from the north region of Grand Erie as Student Trustee, following the keynote presentation. “Everyone deserves to have a space to be themselves.” 

Student senators will meet again in the new year to build further on the ideas that came out of the day-long session, and to begin putting those ideas into action to make a positive impact for secondary students across the board. 

For learners embarking on their secondary school journeys who are looking to share their own voice, Aburkhes has good advice: “Show up for everything you’re interested in, even if you’re nervous or not sure. Just go for it, and hope for the best.” 

Grand Erie’s multi-year strategic plan prioritizes equitable, inclusive and responsive environments for each learner.

More News