Friday, June 18, 2021
As the 2020-2021 school year comes to a close, Near North District School Board (NNDSB) Student Trustee Madelaine Hall-Paradis reflects on her time in the role and NNDSB introduces incoming Student Trustee Cecilia Darling.
A student trustee represents the student population at the Board level. They share the opinions of the students and strive to make change using the student voice. Board meetings are also crucial opportunities for student trustees to bring ideas, questions, and initiatives to the attention of trustees and administration.
Madelaine Hall-Paradis – Student Trustee 2020-2021
In her final weeks as student trustee, Madelaine Hall-Paradis virtually sat down with NNDSB’s Communication Department for a year in review interview.
The Grade 12 student at Almaguin Highlands Secondary School shared her thoughts on the school year that saw a mixture of in-person and remote learning.
The challenges of an unconventional year
“Everyone this year is experiencing screen fatigue,” she noted. “We really don’t want to be on electronic devices more than we have to given the shift from virtual learning to in-person to virtual that we’ve been experiencing throughout the year. So, trying to organize additional meetings and conferencing over TEAMS has been incredibly challenging because we all just really want to be able to meet face-to-face, but are unable to at the given moment.”
One goal Student Trustee Hall-Paradis achieved this year was free menstrual hygiene products for students
“One of the big goals to the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association this year was we wanted to ensure there were free menstrual hygiene products available to all students,” she said. “NNDSB had those in different places in each secondary school. At some secondary schools, they were located in the main office or elsewhere. So, after bringing this forward to the Board of Trustees, we are currently working towards re-locating those resources to gender non-binary washrooms, and female washrooms to make sure they’re available to any student that needs them.”
“This was a big achievement that I am excited to see implemented at NNDSB,” Hall-Paradis noted.
A favourite moment for Student Trustee Hall-Paradis was networking with Student Trustees across the province as ‘knowledge is power’
“Even though the conferences were virtual this year, I really enjoyed getting to network with all of my fellow Student Trustees and learning about what’s happening in the other school boards. I really believe knowledge is power,” she said.
“Hearing what’s going on at other boards and bringing it back to NNDSB, it gave me some really good thoughts for what I want to see implemented in our board. That was one of the ways we crafted with the Student Senate this year which focused on mental health: Thrive in a Hive and wellness pledges,” Hall-Paradis noted. “We saw through some of our other boards, how they were hosting virtual mental health symposiums with meetings and offering these resources. So, when our board’s mental health team approached us about this initiative, Thrive in a Hive, and collaborating, we were able to see that as a great opportunity to bridge the gap and give some student feedback. Additionally, it was really fun to generate some friendly competition between schools and see how invested students became in getting the most pledges.”
Student voice has drastically increased this year
“Students have had to be more vocal in terms of how we are feeling and what we need in order to be successful when we’re learning remotely because it’s not like when you’re sitting in a classroom and you don’t understand something, or something happens in school, where it’s really easy to just walk up to a teacher and say, ‘hey, I need help.’ You really need to be better at facilitating those conversations and opening that line of communication. So, I would say even individual student advocacy, and connecting with our school team for additional support when needed has definitely improved over the past year,” Hall-Paradis said.
Advocating for student voice was extremely important for Student Trustee Hall-Paradis
“I am a student with a Learning Disability (LD) and that is one of the reasons I am so invested in student advocacy. I want to increase the representation of marginalized students who wouldn’t typically be presented with opportunities such as being a Student Trustee, being a student with an “invisible” disability myself,” she said.
“I’m very open about my LD and think this is a great opportunity to help other students feel more comfortable with their unique learning profiles and realize the potential they have in an academic setting.”
Student Trustee Hall-Paradis shared what she gained during this experience
“I would say my ability to collaborate with others and facilitate group projects has definitely improved. I have always been a part of student council throughout my four years of secondary school. Having the ability to lead a team of students from multiple schools had its unique challenges,” she said. “Especially with it being virtual this year, we’ve had to be very good with time management and scheduling meetings that weren’t during online lessons, making sure everyone could get there, creating agendas, finding ways to still connect with students such as what we did for Thrive in a Hive.”
Hall-Paradis shared that working with creativity was a big part of her gained experience, as was just “rolling with the punches.”
During her term as Student Trustee, Hall-Paradis learned a lot about herself
“This is something I already kind of knew going into the role. I am extremely passionate about student voice and equity in education,” Hall-Paradis shared. “I’ve really enjoyed having the chance to hear from students about the changes they wish to see implemented in the school system, so every student has an equitable and fair chance at having a safe school experience. Also connecting with students across the region has given me ideas of projects I want to see implemented not only in my school community, but across the board.”
“I learned I really like presenting to large groups. Having the opportunity to present to the Board every month on the Student Trustee updates has been super exciting because I’m very proud of what our students accomplish and always happy to share and talk about what’s going on in all of our schools. And number three, I would say my ability to speak in front of a group, it’s not something I’ve had to do a ton of previously, but it’s something I’ve become quite comfortable with and that I enjoy doing now,” Paradis said.
Student Trustee Hall-Paradis shares what it’s like to present a report at the Board meetings
“From a student perspective, it’s not often you get the opportunity to talk to a group of higher-ups such as the trustees, superintendents and principals about what’s happening in our schools and giving student perspective on events and other things that we see happening. It’s a pretty exciting opportunity,” she said.
“It’s definitely a responsibility because I want to do my best to represent not only my secondary school but all schools across the region. So before presenting, I always make sure that I have some input from each respective school senator to make sure all schools are included,” Hall-Paradis shared. “It’s a really great opportunity to be able to connect the board with what’s happening from a student’s perspective. It’s not often we get that chance to kind of give our two cents into what’s happening and provide student insight.”
Hall-Paradis provides advice to incoming Student Trustee Darling
“I actually go to the same secondary school as Cecilia, and I’ve had the chance to get to know her personally. So, with her level of drive and determination, I know she’s going to excel in this role and I’m very excited to be passing the torch to her. I would say you need to be really good at communicating with those around you. As much as there’s only one Student Trustee for NNDSB, it’s really a teamwork role. You have to rely on your school student senators and those around you for support because there are so many things you’re responsible for. Learning how to delegate and to share the workload is especially important,” Hall-Paradis said.
What does the next chapter look like for Hall-Paradis?
“Next year, I’m going to be pursuing a joint Bachelor of Social Science in Communications and Political Science. I’m also enrolled in the French immersion stream at the University of Ottawa,” she said.
After post-secondary school, Hall-Paradis hopes to work in human rights law, specifically as it relates to education.
Hall-Paradis offers parting words as she wraps up her term
“It (student trustee) is an opportunity I would suggest to any other student that is passionate about bringing student voice to the table and who wants to advocate for the students of their respective school board. I think a lot of students are kind of unaware this position exists. So, I really hope to see our student senate grow in the next few years. And I’m sure that’s something Cecilia is going to do a fantastic job of,” Hall-Paradis exclaimed.
Cecilia Darling – Student Trustee 2021-2022
NNDSB is proud to officially announce and welcome the incoming Student Trustee for the 2021-2022 school year: Cecilia Darling.
“Hello, I’m Cecilia Darling and I am going into Grade 11 at Almaguin Highlands Secondary School. I am very passionate about school life, student involvement activities, and being an advocate for student voice. I would like to say to my student body that I am very approachable. I have established a communication plan and I really have my finger on the pulse of the student body,” she said. “Through my involvement in many aspects of school, I will be able to represent the student body of our board as a Student Trustee, and I am very excited and appreciative that I was given the opportunity in this role.”
Student mental health and wellness will be a major focus for Darling
“Going into my term as an incoming Student Trustee, I would like to continue the focus on mental health and wellness that was focused on this school year. I feel it’s very important to prioritize mental health and wellness within our board and through the province. That’s something that I would like to focus on going forward and I’m really looking forward to soaking up the knowledge that the trustees have to offer, learning and growing as a leader, representing our school board and making change for the better,” she said.
What does Darling hope to accomplish during her term as Student Trustee?
“In my term as Student Trustee, I hope to inspire other students within NNDSB, I hope to ensure students feel like they have a purpose and a voice. And that students can present any issues, opinions, wants or needs in their education to me and I can be the bridge to the board level,” she said. “I hope to be a mentor like Madelaine was to me; I hope to mentor the team of senators that I will be leading and focusing on mental health and wellness.”
Incoming Student Trustee Darling plans to start new initiatives
“In the experience of being a Student Trustee, I hope to broaden my impact on the Near North District School Board to inspire others and to be a strong advocate for student voice. I would like to start initiatives that benefit our students in our school and can lead them all to success and get to know new leaders within our board,” Darling noted.
Student Trustee Darling offers final comments
“I would just like to say thank you for this amazing opportunity! I started out by being involved in Student Council at my school, working up to be a Student Senator and now Student Trustee. I’m very excited for the opportunity to come and very appreciative of it,” Darling exclaimed.