Students who strengthen community

Inspired and empowered – these two words perfectly describe how five BSS students felt when they attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference in Seattle.
It was the first time that these students had attended a multiracial and multicultural conference where building community was at the centre of its mission. There was nothing in Canada quite like it, and the five BSS students were determined to change that.

One of the hallmarks of a BSS education is that students have confidence to share diverse experiences and perspectives while also feeling that they belong. BSS staff and faculty share this value and were pleased to support the students’ initiative in making a Canadian conference happen.

After months of planning, 450 Canadian and international youth from Grades 8 to 12 were welcomed to the first YouBelong Student Diversity Leadership Summit in February 2021. Participants joined virtually to share their lived experiences and have open discussions about topics such as anti-racism, LGBTQ2S+ rights and social justice. “The intention of the YouBelong Summit was not for it to be some footnote but a catalyst of change,” says Emmy VOGES ’21, one of the BSS students who organized the summit. “We want this event to continue in the years to come and become as big as the one that we originally went to that inspired the idea.”

Thanks to funding from Academic and Program Enrichment, BSS students were thrilled to introduce keynote speaker, Sandy Hudson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada. Hudson’s speech encouraged students to find their voices and to use them to create a better tomorrow for their communities. After her speech, students participated in workshops, affinity groups and regional meetings to deepen their learning. These workshops included titles such as The Next Step: Being a Leader of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at School and Allyship versus Saviourism – Is My Activism Genuine?

After an outpouring of gratitude from attendees, BSS students plan to host another YouBelong Summit in the future. “The reason it was so successful for BSS is because we truly epitomize student voice and agency,” says Genny Lee, Vice Principal, Student Life and Belonging. “When we say we empower students, we really mean it.”