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Local teen enjoying chance to give input on education

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Mira Donaldson is ready to let her voice be heard as she prepares to offer her input on education as part of the Minister’s Student Advisory Council.

The Grade 10 student at Fort High, who was chosen to be part of the advisory council back in the spring, recently attended a second meeting of the group at the Ontario Educational Leadership Centre near Orillia.

There she joined 60 students in Grades 7-12 from across Ontario to discuss ways to improve the education system.

“I really enjoyed meeting students from all around the province, and just getting a lot of their perspectives on different issues and learning about different issues in their schools and how they compared to what’s happening here,” Donaldson noted.

For instance, she discovered small rural schools all struggle with offering a wide variety of courses for students.

“It’s not a problem in the big cities where they have 200 classes available,” she remarked.

But that was just one of many educational issues discussed. Donaldson said she sat in one six different consultations, which she found very interesting and in-depth.

“There were discussions on alcohol abuse in youth, mathematics education, the careers course curriculum, barriers to post-secondary education, promoting mental health, and student well-being,” she recalled.

“It was very interesting to talk to students from across Ontario who had different backgrounds, experiences, and opinions,” Donaldson added.

“I gave and gained a lot of insight on these various topics.”

Members of the council also were split into subcommittees of their choice in order to write reports and conduct research on topics important to them.

Donaldson is part of the Small and Rural Schools subcommittee, as well as the one on Equity.

Within the Small and Rural Schools subcommittee, she is looking to tackle the issue of limited courses.

“We want to have more courses available or better e-learning courses,” she stressed.

Other issues her subcommittee discussed was having more fundraising options because in a small school, it is a lot harder to raise money, as well as the quality of the teaching staff.

For instance, a fellow member of the subcommittee who attends a small French school noted teachers aren’t hired because they are good but because they can speak French.

On the Equity subcommittee, meanwhile, Donaldson specifically will be working on a report on accessibility for diabetics—an issue that’s close to her heart as she was diagnosed with the disease five years ago.

“Some of the issues I want to write about in that report would be about doing glucagon injections—having teachers trained to be able to do that if a diabetic goes into a coma,” she said.

“Because at the moment they are not legally allowed to.”

Donaldson also would like to see more concern given to dietary needs for diabetics and education for teachers about diabetes.

Other topics being addressed within the Equity subcommittee include accessibility, learning disabilities, accepting differences, and cultural diversity.

Donaldson said she and the other members of the council will write reports on the issues, which are due by the end of March.

“So I’ll do some research and some surveys to include in my reports,” she noted, adding she also will be attending teleconferences, and helping out with various other projects, throughout the school year.

“I’d like to see the things I write in my reports actually happen,” Donaldson remarked.

“Of course, I don’t know how realistic some of them are, but at least I’d like to have my voice heard and the voices of other students from this area, who I am writing on behalf of.”

She added the week-long meeting also offered plenty of fun, such as recreation time, as well as taught leadership development.

“The week was absolutely incredible and life-changing, for sure,” Donaldson enthused.

“I contributed my ideas to all of the discussions, and really opened myself up and stepped outside my comfort zone. . . .

“I learned a lot about leadership and teamwork, but also about myself.”

Donaldson said the experience was transformative.

“It definitely has made me a more confident leader,” she noted.

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