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Turning Up the Volume on Student Voice in Alberta

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2013-08-07-ScreenShot20130806at9.59.49PM.png I just graduated from high school and admittedly, I have never felt directly connected to the Calgary Board of Education or the choices they have made regarding students. Certainly, each school has a representative on the Chief Superintendent's Student Advisory Council and while the benefits of such a council can be seen, it is regardless, not difficult to lose the thoughts of the greater student population which includes more than 100 000 students in the Calgary Board of Education alone. The popularity of annual student-run Student Results Symposiums shows that all students deserve a chance to have a more prominent role in their education, all year round. In fact, the decisions that impact students the most are often the ones we have little involvement in - it's funny how that works, isn't it? I few months ago however, I was invited to support a student cause named the Student Trustee Initiative.

Here in Alberta, we need all the support we can get in order to implement a policy, province wide, which will mandate a student council called the Principal's Advisory Council in each school to deal with education issues and reform the student district council, or the Chief Superintendent's Student Advisory Council. When these reforms and implementation are successful, ultimately this will lead to the establishment of the Student Trustee position on the Board of Trustees. Recently the students leading the initiative met with members of the Board of Trustees for the Calgary Board of Education and it was decided that some initial steps must be taken before the Trustee initiative can come into place. The most important action to take in the near future is to begin fostering a culture of an active student voice within the education system through reforming the current infrastructure in place. The aim is to create an initial policy that will validate student voice by for instance, mandating a Principal's Advisory Council in every single school in Calgary. Furthermore, a few students from the Chief Superintendent's Student Advisory Council will hopefully be granted permission to join the public Board of Trustees meetings as a stakeholder, and share what they learn with their peers on both councils. Once student voice has been recognized in these ways, the Student Trustee Initiative can come into the forefront, down the road.

Student Voice Alberta is an entirely student lead group which is working to create a greater student voice in the CBE. Student Trustees would be able to attend the official meetings of the Board of Education and share their opinions on the issues at hand in order to convey student perspectives and concern. Although they would not be able to vote on proposed laws, they have the power to ensure that student voices from a diverse range of schools are being heard. The Student Trustees would not be limited to expressing their feedback at board meetings and are able to take any route in order to connect with students and gain insight into the issues that affect them.

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Student Trustees in Canada are in fact, not unheard of. Many districts in Toronto and New Brunswick have implemented this already and not long ago, Vancouver approved the Student Trustee position as a pilot project. Ontario in fact mandated the position of student trustees through the Education Act since 1998 and consequently, the student trustees have contributed greatly towards policies pertaining to mental health, cyber bullying, under-served communities, the environment and much more over the years. The students heading the initiative in Calgary have already contacted Chief Superintendent Naomi Johnson and members of the Board of Trustees who have expressed interest in the cause and have already set up a meeting with them.

To learn more and to get involved, just visit the Student Voice Alberta Page or the Canada wide Student Voice Initiative Facebook Page.