Teens influence provincial education policies, projects
- Rose Mansbridge-Goldie
Bree Chamakese and Kadence Hodgson are two Indigenous members of this year’s Saskatchewan Youth Council, a group that meets with the Minister of Education to discuss issues pertinent to students across the province.
“I’m looking forward to being heard,” said Hodgson, a grade 12 student at Rossignol Highschool in the Metis settlement of Sakitawak (Ile-a-la-Crosse.)
Hodgson is looking forward to the new people and perspectives the Council will bring into her life and hopes there can be a focus on 2SLGBTQ+ and mental health conversations.
Chamakese, a grade 12 student in Melfort, wants to see more understanding between teachers and students.
“My mom is a teacher so I've grown up hearing a lot of the stories from both sides. I understand where teachers are coming from and I understand where students are coming—I want everyone to be on the same page and respect each other,” Chamakese said.
Both students are involved in their communities outside of school. Chamakese spends much of her time at the dance studio, taking classes and teaching.
Hodgson is a square dancer and has been an advocate for mental health since 2018, having experienced the intensity of mental health issues herself.
“(School and life) are tough, but it’s all worth it in the end,” Hodgson said. She hope to convey this feeling to other students through her position on the youth council.
“It's a great opportunity for the Minister of Education and the Ministry of Education to hear the voices of Saskatchewan youth,” Susan Nedlecov-Anderson, Assistant Deputy Minister of Education, said.
The youth council met in person for the first time at the end of September and will have online meetings every month for the rest of the school year.
“I think it's also a fantastic opportunity for those… members of the youth council to develop their leadership skills and to learn from each other. They all come from different parts of the province and bring their own different life experiences to the conversation,” Nedlecov-Anderson said.
This is the third year Saskatchewan has had a 12-member Youth Council.
“We send out an announcement to our school divisions and they nominate students… to be part of the youth council. A selection process is done by the Ministry of Education to ensure we have a variety of voices, diverse backgrounds, that make up the youth council,” Nedlecov-Anderson said.
The 2021-2022 Youth Council will examine policies and programs that are already in place and offer guidance to move those projects forward.
One of them, the Provincial Education Plan, focuses on the need for a shared vision for education, including perspectives from First Nations and Métis people. As members of the Youth Council, Hodgson and Chamakese will help shape the vision, demonstrating leadership as examples to fellow Indigenous students.
“You can't really complain about the school if you're not helping them, whether that's physically helping them or at least giving your input on what you want to see,” Chamakese said.
The girls use their roles as leaders in their schools to encourage action among their classmates and teachers.
“I try to be a role model because I know I'm First Nation. I like to show that you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you care,” Chamakese said.