As a ME to WE "WE School", the students of William Dunbar's ME to WE Club have committed to running a number of local and global campaigns. So far this year, students have successfully participated in the "WE Stand Together," "WE Take Charge," and "WE Volunteer Now" campaigns. Through these campaigns, students have accomplished several goals including designing Valentine's Day cards for seniors, creating a pledge wall at school, painting inspirational canvases to decorate the walls of a local shelter, and much more.
The campaigns have made a positive impact on the community, and as grade 8 student Lydia notes, they have also played a very meaningful role in the lives of club members.
"Through the process of being involved in ME to WE and attending WE Day, my confidence in myself has grown substantially," Lydia explains. "Whether it's because this group has grown beside me, because it's my passion, or because it gives me pride, it has been the greatest honour to be involved in this club."
The first campaign of the year, "WE Stand Together," has truly resonated with the students. This campaign is designed to strengthen ties between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians through learning and dialogue. Through this campaign, the ME to WE students connected with Anne Kehoe, a teacher of Mohawk ancestry at William Dunbar. Mrs. Kehoe was instrumental in educating the student group about the history of Indigenous Canadians. The students, inspired by their learning, have begun the process of sharing this information with classes throughout the school.
In addition, the ME to WE Club assisted the Director of Honouring Indigenous Peoples (HIP), John Currie, in his quest to collect 350 coats in 35 days for students at Chief Simeon McKay Education Centre. The Education Centre resides in the isolated northern community of Kasabonika Lake First Nation. William Dunbar students were proud to collect over 150 coats, which were donated to students at the Education Centre, allowing them to travel to school despite harsh weather conditions.
The ME to WE Club's hard work led to an invitation from HIP to attend a reception in the Lieutenant Governor's Suite at Queen's Park. The reception, held to honour HIP, was hosted by Her Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Eight William Dunbar students, along with teacher, Stacey Whiler, and Acting Principal, Emily Ogilvie, attended the reception in February.
The event further inspired the students to build collaborative relationships with Indigenous peoples. Students left with the realization that although the "WE Stand Together" campaign may have officially ended, their commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation process was only just beginning.
A highlight of the evening was when the Lieutenant Governor spoke with the William Dunbar attendees about the club's goals and initiatives and congratulated them for all their hard work.
Stacey Whiler, the teacher who runs the ME to WE Club at Dunbar, was thrilled to have the students' work recognized at such a prestigious reception.
"The eight students who attended represent a much larger group of students. Students who strongly believe in social justice and who want to use their time and energy to pursue meaningful outreach goals," explains Whiler. "Every week I am astounded by the enthusiasm the students bring to our meetings. I am filled with inspiration and hope when I consider that these ME to WE members are the future advocates of our community."
"Student groups like ME to WE foster leadership skills and prepare our students to be global citizens who are positive change agents," says Emily Ogilvie, Acting Principal at William Dunbar.
Grade 8 student Katherine feels as though the ME to WE Club has opened her eyes to global issues and perspectives.
"Four years of participating in this club has allowed me to discover so much more about the world," shares Katherine. "About the different people and places, and the problems this world faces."
After an exciting and eventful first term, William Dunbar's ME to WE Club looks toward its next set of campaigns with eager anticipation.