Nechako Lakes students get peer voice

Nechako Lakes school district’s students now has a defined group from their peers that advocates their needs.

Moving on from satisfaction surveys and focus groups, Nechako Lakes school district’s students now has a defined group from their peers that advocates their needs.

A Student Voice representative from Vanderhoof presented the group’s mission and vision statements, as well as its values to School District No. 91’s board on Oct. 19.

With two students from each high school in the district — including Burns Lake, Fraser Lake, Fort St. James, and Vanderhoof — Student Voice has started in 2013 when the school board became interested in having student opinion, said Manu Madhok, the school district’s director of instruction.

“They rarely get a chance to say whether they are satisfied or not,” Madhok said. “If you’re thinking of a business model, they are our customers.”

With no particular model for the student voice project at its inception, the first group of students were picked by each school’s vice principal, Madhok explained.

“The kids said what we need to do is a survey in what the kids think about,” he said, and the group went on to conduct an online survey across the school district through broad questions, such as naming five things the school does well, rating their school involvement, and suggesting how the school experience can be improved.

Bullying, racism, communication, and school engagement are the main topics that emerged as the group categorized the collected information according to grade and gender.

To gather more in-depth information in person, the group then conducted focus groups with specific questions on the issues affecting schools, and are now reviewing the results.

For Danielle Marks, who represents Nechako Valley Secondary School in Student Voice along with Zech Nightingale, participating in the group is an opportunity to learn and help.

“It was exciting to learn lots about issues,” Marks said. “I’m able to address and help solve the problem.”

The most surprising result for Marks was one of the main topics that had emerged from the survey.

“You hear about bullying, but I thought it’s more in the past,” she said. “I didn’t expect it to be so much of an issue in some grades.”

Representatives of Student Voice currently attend school board meetings on a rotational basis, as the group has no hierarchy system.

“As soon as you elect one person, all we’ve done is created a structure where one person represent all students,” Madhok said. “We want to stay away from that.”

Though the majority of group are active members of student government in school, the group is looking to diversify, with future representatives found by students.

“When we started, we are deliberate in the sense that we wanted a broad spectrum of students because it really is about getting student voice,” said Eugene Marks, the school district’s director of instruction.

“It’s about building capacity and leadership across a wider number of students,” Marks said.

 

Mission Statement:

Students creating positive change, collaborating to build an even better and brighter future for our district.

 

Vision Statement:

Students advocating for students

 

Values:

Confidentiality, Teamwork, Commitment, Respect, Creativeness, Adaptability, Initiative, Inclusiveness, Share your ideas willingly and confidently

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