From left: Tech entrepreneur-turned-motivational speaker Anthony Lacavera inspires the crowd.

Student Senate Event Brings School Leaders Together 

TUESDAY, APR. 18, 2023


Leadership is an ongoing process of learning and risk-taking, and Grand Erie’s recent Student Senate event delivered that message in a big way. 

“These networking roundtables enable student leaders to connect with one another and work together, all with the same aspiration of shaping the future of their school environment positively,” said Maggie Baker, Student Trustee, of the day which combined meetings and brainstorming with a keynote meant to inspire and connect. “We built a solid framework for the remainder of the school year and worked to construct plans to effectively serve the needs of our peers, and I’m so proud of what we accomplished today.” 

From left: Grand Erie Student Trustees Maggie Baker, Aleena Skye, and Tatyana Zebroski take the stage.

The first half of the day, hosted at Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School, brought together members of each of Grand Erie’s secondary school senates and the United Indigenous Student Senate, and was structured around exchanging ideas and identifying impactful changes to improve student life. The elected representatives brought big ideas and empowering solutions on behalf of their fellow learners. 

“One of the problems we discussed was a lack of accessibility to nutritious, affordable food, and a way to help overcome that is to grow your own food,” said Grace Deonarine, a Grade 12 student from Valley Heights Secondary School, whose brainstorming group got deep into themes including the corporatization of food and water supplies, and a lack of compensation to Indigenous communities where water is being taken. “One of the things I’m most proud of when I talk to new students to Valley is that we are a rural community with a lot to offer in terms of nature and the environment around us, so we’re in a really good position to champion something like a community garden, and that could become a model for other schools.” 

The message of the keynote address, delivered in an inspiring presentation by technology entrepreneur Anthony Lacavera, matched the big energy of the student roundtables, and invited additional students from each secondary school to join the audience. 

“One thing many of us struggle with is risk aversion, and particularly when speaking to people this age, they aren’t always getting the encouragement they need to understand that failure isn’t something to fear,” said Lacavera, founder of Wind Mobile, among many career highlights. “That’s why I’m spending a lot of time in my career now, post-tech company founder, to address questions of how we embolden young people to trailblaze their own paths.”  

For Grand Erie staff members acting in advisory roles for student senate members, the day was equally inspiring. 

“I hope the students, especially those attending for the first time, are feeling empowered by their voice and by the recognition that there are people, other students out there, that have the same goals as them,” said Jillian Backus, educator at Valley Heights. “After today, they can turn inward to their own schools, knowing that if there’s an issue, we can figure out a solution and work together to implement something that will work.” 

Isaac Halsey, of Paris District High School’s student senate, echoed that sentiment. 

“I really like being among other leaders because I know that when we pitch ideas, there will be a lot of momentum to get it done,” said Halsey. “It’s inspired me to work hard, and know that part of that work paying off means I can be with other people who also share that work ethic and vision.” 

Grand Erie’s multi-year strategic plan includes a vision to Learn, Lead and Inspire, and a mission to build cultures of learning, well-being and belonging to inspire each learner. 

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