CHANGE PROJECT: Listowel
Megan Herrewynen, a Youth Animator in Grade 12 at Listowell District Secondary School in the Avon Maitland district, spoke about her efforts regarding her own Change Project. Together with Grade 11 student Parker Ducharme and Teacher Ally Bill Nauta, she wants to foster more unity in her school environment.
“We really want to make our school a more accepting place for everybody,” she said, “so that when everybody walks into the building, they know that they belong [and] it’s okay to be different,
because we all are.”
So far, they’ve taken several steps in this process. The first was to host a workshop for the grade nine students at their school. As part of this event they made a video with the grade nines to help them discuss inclusion and it was presented to the whole school at an assembly which focused on building a spirit of community at their school.
“Instead of just looking at somebody and saying ‘Oh, that’s the kid who’s always in the wheelchair,’ [we’d like them to say] ‘That’s the kid who’s funny or smart.’
We wanted to really capture what people want to be known for instead of what they are known for.”
A rally was also held at the school to discuss inclusion, and the youth animators have also been visiting area elementary schools speaking with students in grades 7 and 8.
Megan has a strong personal stake in fostering inclusion. Her uncle has Down syndrome, and she wants to make the community a safer, more welcoming place for others who have an intellectual disability.
“I remember growing up and walking places with him, and sometimes people would stare at us, and I never really knew why. They don’t get to see him for all the wonderful things that he is [and] when I came to high school, I started seeing more of that.”
She thinks her school deserves high marks for its inclusive practices thus far. Although there is a segregated class within the school, she explained some of the students are there “…one period a day to kind of check in, but they also have other classes. They go to food prep and arts classes, and we always involve everyone.”
She feels there’s still work to be done though in making sure everyone is included.
“When you walk through the halls, there’s still always ‘groups’ of people. Our school’s kind of cliquey in a sense. We’re hoping we can get rid of some of that so that people are more friendly toward one another, so that we can be more inclusive of everyone in the school.”