Students at Ecole Glenrosa Middle School in West Kelowna. (Google Maps)

West Kelowna middle school students break down barriers

Equity club seeks religion, gender and race acceptance at Ecole Glenrosa Middle School

A West Kelowna middle school is charting a new pathway for how to create an inclusive school atmosphere where students and staff are accepted equally regardless of race, religion or gender.

École Glenrosa Middle School students founded the equity club where “humans can simply be and others be encouraged to do the same.”

The equity club philosophy in part is for students to see, hear and value one another and co-exist under models of kindness, social justice and service to school and community.

Those aspirations were featured in a video presented at the Okanagan Board of Education meeting on March 9.

The video featured students talking about the goals behind creating the equity club and teacher Serina Penner, who also spoke at the meeting, saying how the passion expressed by the students has now encompassed staff working at the school as well.

Penner said the perspective of adults in the school may differ from students, but the issue of equity is one universal to everyone – to make schools a safe place for people to be themselves where they are seen, heard and valued and support one another.

“I am most proud of how empowered students have been…to bring forward a new version of school culture and what that would look like,” Penner said in the video.

She said because Glenrosa is currently a Grade 6-9 middle school, the equity club is broken into two groups of Grades 6-7 and 8-9 students because of the different maturity levels of students at those two group ages.

“The Grade 8-9s are in a different space and conversation than are the Grade 6-7s,” Penner told school trustees.

Terry Beaudry, assistant school district superintendent, cited how the Glenrosa equity club is a positive example of reciprocal learning between students and staff to create a more positive and accepting school culture.

Trustee Norah Bowman reinforced the importance for the school district to support students of all minority categories to ensure they receive an equally equitable education.

“I will commit to continue to stand up for your rights,” Bowman said.

Board chair Moyra Baxter noted she is distressed by some of the actions taken by school boards in the U.S. regarding race, religion and gender issues.

“We live in a time when we should embrace each other’s differences so I get upset hearing about what I see as backward steps taking place in schools in the U.S.,” she said.

Trustee Chantelle Desrosiers added she was impressed by the goals equity club students are striving for and what a positive influence they will bring when moving on to Mount Boucherie Secondary School.

“They are going to be a great asset to Mount Boucherie,” Desrosiers said.

READ MORE: Courageous Central Okanagan students tackle issues of equity, anti-racism

READ MORE: Positive steps for Central Okanagan Indigenous student equity

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