Pleasant Park’s Social Justice Committee Builds Community and Collaboration

Pleasant Park’s Social Justice Committee Builds Community and Collaboration
Posted on 06/23/2022
Pleasant Park’s Social Justice Committee Builds Community and Collaboration

Pleasant Park Public School launched the Social Justice Committee, a student voice forum where students can share their ideas and concerns with administrators and educators, and work collaboratively toward a more inclusive, safe, and welcoming school community.


The idea for the Committee began taking shape last year. Students were coming to the office to share suggestions for celebrating the diversity of the school. Staff held small group conversations, then organized a larger discussion in the gym, where they heard students’ perspectives, concerns, and ideas. They talked about whether students felt represented, what activities were not fully inclusive, and how to help students feel more engaged. They asked students, “What can we do to show our commitment to having your voices heard?” The Social Justice Committee was born.


The Committee is free for any interested student to attend, with no election or prerequisites for participation. It holds weekly meetings throughout the school year to discuss a wide range of issues in an open, town-hall-style format. Vice-Principal Megan Skentelbery and Teacher Sean Sepulis work with students to organize and guide the discussions and activities.


Over the course of the year, the Committee strengthened student collaboration, amplified student voice, and sparked many student-driven initiatives. The group held discussions about safe spaces, worked on aligning daily announcements with dates of significance, and reviewed school practices and special events to make them more inclusive. They also created lists of vetted resources and books to represent various groups, so that students would have an opportunity to see themselves reflected. 


In February, the students planned and participated in a peaceful protest for Every Child Matters. They researched and wrote journalistic articles and participated in a silent walk around the school with posters to raise awareness about the history and legacy of residential schools.


Vice-Principal Skentelbery reflected on the impact that the Committee has made within the school community:


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"The SJC is a passionate group of students advocating for change while respectfully challenging each other's perspectives and biases, learning and unlearning from one another, and creating space for real leadership where student voice is at the forefront of decision making to elicit positive change. As an example, students actively participate in the writing and reading of daily announcements related to black history month, Indigenous history, 2SLGBTQ+ and various religious dates of significance throughout the year which focuses on daily reflection at the school level. It has been a joy watching students learn from their peers' lived experiences and how they are working together to better understand positions of privilege and bias. We are so proud of all the things our students continue to accomplish as part of these ongoing efforts while advocating for what is right alongside those whose voices are not always heard. We hope our grade 6 leaders will continue these efforts as they head in new directions for grade 7 next year!" - Megan Skentelbery
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Here is some of the feedback that students shared about their experience in the Committee:


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“I joined the SJC so I could spread awareness for things that matter to me.”


“I loved that we were able to be experts and lead discussions about things we know about from our family. We need more chances to be leaders and have our own ideas heard.” 


“I think a lot things have changed since we have started our SJC . We reflect in class and with friends on things like ‘is this racist?’ or how might this make someone else feel, and reflect on what others are going through like when others were fasting during Ramadan.”

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