Serious discussion

From left, Nira Lall, program manager with Harmony Movement; Keira Essex, Grade 8 student at Vance Chapman Public School; and Robyn Sulkko, student trustee with the Lakehead District School Board, attend the Harmony Movement’s Social Changemakers Leadership Program on Thursday.

Thirty Lakehead Public School students are becoming leaders in diversity and equity through a two-day program hosted by the school board.

“The concept of equity and equality is important for our society to function well and for everyone to feel included,” Nira Lall, program manager with Harmony Movement, told The Chronicle-Journal.

“It’s even more relevant we are seeing an increase in hate crimes, we’re seeing an increase in divisiveness. It is really important for us to have these conversations, especially with our youth, to get them talking about the messages they are hearing and being critical about them.”

On Thursday, students were examining messaging through advertising, media and social media and had an open group discussion about the images and messages presented.

Lall hopes that the students taking part in the Harmony Movement’s Social Changemakers Leadership Program (SCLP) will learn how to be allies to their peers that might be going through a tough time because of the political climate.

The students are being engaged through both small and large group activities to talk about the different forms of discrimination.

Today, the participants will be working on identifying something in their school or community that they want to improve and hopefully implement a plan to tackle it, with a team of people from the school.

Keira Essex, one of the student participants, felt that the program was a great opportunity for youth to get into the community and learn more about social justice and equality.

“Learning about the difference between discrimination and stereotypes, oppressions and prejudice, it’s been really interesting . . . the different types of racism, how it is affecting everybody . . . gender, race and all the different types . . . and how we can deal with them,” said Essex, a Grade 8 student at Vance Chapman Public School.

She hoped to be better educated through participating in the program and to learn how to make the community a better place.

“Today, the kids are learning about diversity and prejudice . . . it’s important for this age group (grades 7 and 8) . . . to be able to identify those issues and also understand the skills they possess in order to address those issues and make a change within their classroom rather than perpetuating the problem,” said Robyn Sulkko, student trustee with the Lakehead District School Board.

Harmony movement is an equity inclusion and diversity education organization, which travels across Ontario speaking with students, educators, organizations and businesses.

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