It's an annual tradition in Western School Division for trustees, principals and vice principals and senior administration to gather at the Morden Collegiate Backstage Theatre with students from grade 4-12 for the Student Leadership Forum.  Students are assigned to a group for the morning and afternoon where they take part in fun activities followed by round table discussions. 

Grade six École Morden Middle School student Oscar Mbabazi explained. 

"Some students were selected to come talk to board members, principals, and vice principals about their ideas for the school to team building activities to help their skills and to improve their teamwork, to help improve the schools and spread their ideas, because they said, our voices are important."   

A group of students, including Mbabazi, working on a puzzle activity.Students, including Mbabazi in the middle, working on a puzzle activity.

Mbabazi said he couldn't think of anything the schools could do to improve but shared why he likes school so much.  

"I love how inclusive the teachers are and how they're always willing to help."  

Grade eleven student, Brooke Roberts is on student council and was happy to take part in the forum.  

"There's quite a diverse group here. There are people from all sorts of ethnicities, like people from out in Stanley where I am from, and people from inside the town. I feel like this is going to be a really beneficial program because there are so many different people and they're all gonna have all sorts of different things, plus the exercises are interesting."  

A group of students silently building a tower together.A group of students silently building a tower together.

Lane Fehr, also in grade eleven, agreed.  

"We've been talking a lot about community. We've been talking about how we all need to work together, what defines a community, what people need to do to be a part of a community. We've been talking about communication as well, what it takes to properly communicate, to work together as a team." 

He described his team having to build a Lego tower without using words as a difficult exercise and when the team was given another activity to build a Lego structure with only one person seeing it at a time, with talking allowed, the team worked together much better. 

Grade ten student Aqeelah Daibu moved to Morden from Nigeria last May with her family. She said it was tough to leave so much behind and to start a new life in Canada, but it was also easy. 

"Since I got here, for example on my first day of school, I found the community very, very accommodating and they were welcoming. I felt like I'd be discriminated (against) because of my hijab and my colour, but I found that to be not true. I think what helped me was, because before coming here, (I felt like) I was weird and I was different, I didn't let that be an obstacle. I'm so glad I'm here with these wonderful people."  

A welcoming activity where students are treated differently based on the value given to the card on their back.A welcoming activity where students are treated differently based on the value given to the card on their back.

Grade 10 student Owen Harris gave valuable feedback at the Mental Health table. 

"Some of my ideas were to probably have a couple more teachers to help out with mental health, because that's a big struggle at our school, I think. And to be more aware of men's mental health, because it doesn't get noticed as much as some of women's mental health. So, if we can acknowledge that a bit more, I think the morale of our school could improve." 

Harris noted he heard other good ideas and hopes they can be implemented into everyday life at school to make it better for everyone, adding they (administration) hire some really great staff, who are super helpful and supportive. 

A group photo of all participants.

From the youngest age group, Kaylee Bueckert a grade four student from Minnewasta Elementary School said she started off her day at the Technology and Social Media Table where they discussed a few ideas. 

"What is a real fact and what is a wrong fact? What websites you can go on? And what type of stuff the school could use for devices and if kids at different schools could use their phones and tablets at school are not." 

A group of students, including Bueckert, working on an activity.A group of students, including Bueckert (sitting), working on an activity.

She valued the idea of having a phone at school for emergencies and to reach family members, if needed, and really liked the idea of each student having their own laptop. Although, she was keenly aware of the price tag for such a decision. 

Board Vice Chair Darcy Wolfe said the Student Leadership Forum is one of the most fun and impactful days on the trustee calendar.  

"The answers that we get and the words that we hear today from these kids are from the people that are most impacted by the decisions we make around the board table. So, it's something that impacts our board priorities and it definitely impacts our budgets as we're preparing to spend taxpayer money." 

Western School Division is conducting a public survey as part of collection of community voice. All ratepayers are encouraged to participate. The deadline is February 20th. February 28th is the WSD Public Budget Meeting.