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Students fight bigotry and discrimination

By: Dave Baxter

Posted: 02/12/2018 9:15 AM

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SRSS grade 10 students Abagail Duizer and Hollie Wherry are members of the SRSS Multiple Mentors Social Justice Initiative program and will both make a presentation in front of a panel of judges on Feb. 14.

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SRSS grade 10 students Abagail Duizer and Hollie Wherry are members of the SRSS Multiple Mentors Social Justice Initiative program and will both make a presentation in front of a panel of judges on Feb. 14.

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A group of students and staff at Steinbach Regional Secondary School say they are doing whatever they can to make sure their school is a place that is safe for all students, free from bigotry and discrimination.

An upcoming event will see students make presentations, as they look to show others what they plan to do to make their school an environment where everyone feels safe.

"We’re just trying to bring a better understanding of all that diversity that is in our school, and I think that understanding is what can help to make the school a really safe space," said Grade 10 student Hollie Wherry.

Wherry is a member of the SRSS Multiple Mentors Social Justice Initiative program, in which students meet regularly and discuss strategies to bring social justice issues to the forefront.

On Feb. 14, those involved in the program will hold what is being called their "culminating event."

The event will be run in a way similar to the popular television show, Shark Tank, in that groups will have a chance to make presentations, then hear feedback and suggestions from a panel of judges that will include officials from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Hanover School Division.

Unlike the show, where groups propose business and entrepreneurial ideas, this event will see groups of students propose ideas of what they want to do in the school to advance a number of social issues.

SRSS vice-principal Wayne Davies said staff mentors have been working with students creating proposals for projects to implement next school year to allow students to talk to other staff and students about human rights.

Topics that will be covered in the upcoming presentations include Indigenous issues, human trafficking, the rights of girls and women, and Islamophobia.

According to Davies, one of the groups will be made up of Syrian refugee students who recently came to Steinbach, and want to give students a deeper understanding of their culture.

He said the students will propose a day where students will get on a bus, visit the student’s mosque in Winnipeg, meet with staff there and then head somewhere where they can eat traditional Middle Eastern food and have a conversation about the culture.

Rachel Thiessen, a guidance counsellor at SRSS, said fighting discrimination and bigotry often goes hand-in-hand with educating others about different cultures and traditions.

"We often discriminate against other groups because we don’t know anything about them, so what we need to do is ask questions," Thiessen said.

She added the SRSS also recently had an employee from Islamic Social Services make a presentation at the school teaching students about her culture and allowing them to ask questions.

Along with an understanding of other cultures, Thiessen said she hopes SRSS students can engage in intelligent conversations when they disagree with each other on different topics.

"It’s about having discourse and listening to other opinions without arguing or being disrespectful or dismissive," Thiessen said.

"It’s about learning how to have those difficult conversations."

Multiple Mentors students will make their presentations to a panel of judges at the SRSS Theatre on Feb. 14 starting at 9 a.m.

One presentation will be chosen as the winning idea. Those students will receive money which can be used to begin implementing their ideas next school year.

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