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Teen named to advisory council

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Mira Donaldson has served as a Legislative Page, was named a 2014 Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year, and last month earned top honours in drama at the provincial competition of the Associated Manitoba Arts Festivals.

But she’s not stopping there with her achievements.

The ninth-grader also recently was selected to be part of the Minister’s Student Advisory Council.

“[It’s] a group of 60 students in Grades 7-12 from across Ontario, and basically our job is to advise the minister of education on how to improve the education system from a student’s standpoint,” explained Donaldson, who heard about the opportunity on the school announcements earlier in the year.

She went online to look up what it was and thought it looked pretty interesting.

“So I told my parents about it and they said [I] should apply,” she recalled.

Donaldson filled out the application in February, which required her to answer several questions, such as:

  • describing “a time when you believe your voice was not heard”;
  • “a time when you accomplished something or participated in something that you are really proud of”; and
  • “one or more personal experience(s) that have happened in your life that you believe make(s) you unique.”

She also had to, from a list of about two dozen topics, pick the top five issues she would want to address while on the advisory council.

Donaldson chose literacy, leadership, math, students disengaged from school, and First Nation, Métis, and Inuit people.

“Applying for it, I didn’t really know what to expect, like how many kids were applying or what they were looking for,” she admitted.

But in April, Donaldson was notified that she had earned a seat and attended the inaugural meeting of the 2016-17 council May 5 in Toronto.

“It was more just to get to know everybody,” she noted, adding they did start talking about different ideas of things they’d like to change in the next year.

She said the “theme” of this year’s council is “Promoting Well-Being.”

“We discussed in groups and took notes on what that means to us, and how we can promote well-being in our schools,” she remarked.

Donaldson also attended discussions on substance abuse, rural schools, and improving literacy education.

“All of the conversations were very in-depth and everybody had good points and ideas for improvement,” she noted.

They also had a chance to meet Liz Sandals, the minster of education at the time, who recently was replaced by Mitzie Hunter.

“The final discussion we had in groups was about how teachers, parents, and guidance counsellors have helped us in looking at post-secondary options, and how they could improve,” Donaldson said.

“Many other students had very interesting thoughts and perspectives, some of which I agreed with and others, not so much.

“It was really interesting to meet students from across Ontario and learn about how their school systems work,” she added, saying many of the students have a similar mindset as her and want to make a difference in their school communities.

Donaldson next will be attending a five-day leadership camp in Orillia in August.

“That’s when we’ll start talking more about those ideas and how we can actually implement them,” she explained.

She said she’d really like to make a difference in the areas of literacy and interest in school.

“I think that almost all of the issues in our school systems can be traced back to a deficiency of literacy,” she reasoned.

“Reading allows us to explore different opinions and inquire about things we don’t know.

“Writing allows us to express our opinions and show off our creative side.

“In today’s society, words and conversations have been reduced to meaningless drivel through texting and social media,” Donaldson stressed.

“Our literacy skills as a collective group have been nearly destroyed.”

Donaldson said she sees a lot of grammar issues at the high-school level and thinks more should be done in earlier grades to help with that.

She added it also seems like there is a lack of interest, not just about literacy but all subjects.

“Kids don’t seem interested in learning,” she noted. “So another one of my goals would be to come up with some different ways to try to fix that.”

As part of the advisory council, Donaldson also can be called upon for input.

For instance, she talked with someone a few weeks ago who was setting up a math tool-kit online for high school students.

“They just wanted some input about what should be in there,” she noted. “So I’ll be doing things like that.”

Donaldson said she’s really looking forward to her year on the advisory council.

“I think this will be an absolutely incredible opportunity,” she enthused.

She is not the only member from the north, with other students hailing from Eagle Lake, Schreiber, and Nipigon.

And all travel and accommodations are provided.

Donaldson noted students can begin applying for the position in Grade 7 and are able to be selected more than once—just not in back-to-back years.

“It’s something I would definitely recommend,” she stressed.

“I think it really will be an amazing experience and one that I think other students should have, too.”

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