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Toronto Youth Cabinet launches campaign for students to have their say

Director of organizational development said she'd like to see all students, not just those who fit the student council stereotype, have the opportunity to contribute.

Erika Dupuis, left, and Andrea Fernández are participating in the Toronto Youth Cabinet’s new

#StudentsofToronto campaign.

Nick Lachance / For Metro

Erika Dupuis, left, and Andrea Fernández are participating in the Toronto Youth Cabinet’s new #StudentsofToronto campaign.

Naima Raza was a student trustee at her high-school in Sarnia, giving her access to places her fellow students didn't go.

"The experience in the boardroom is really different than what happens every day in the classroom," she said. "I saw my peers not having that opportunity.

"I kind of wanted to have a conversation of how can we imagine something beyond that."

Raza, now 20, is the education lead with the Toronto Youth Cabinet, a group that works to give young people a voice at city hall. The cabinet's new campaign #StudentsofToronto aims to get student voices taken more seriously across the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board.

They'll be talking to students over the next few months before writing a final report.

Raza, a student at the University of Toronto, said the campaign dovetails with the TDSB's current discussions on equity, as the voices of Black, Indigenous and other minority students are especially underrepresented.

"Right now 'student voice' has become kind of a catchphrase, where sometimes it means putting a student on a committee," she said. "And that's kind of a token representation of the diversity of our student body."

The cabinet's director of organizational development Andrea Fernández said she'd like to see all students, not just those who fit the student council stereotype, have the opportunity to contribute.

"There's just such an appetite in terms of emerging leaders who are going to require completely different skills," Fernández said.

Erika Dupuis, a member of the cabinet's education working group, said many students don't see themselves reflected in the curriculum, and the campaign's major goal is to get the ministry to do more outreach to students "whose voices aren't being heard."

"It's more of a bottom-up approach rather than the top-down," she said. "For students by students, rather than from administrators for students."

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