October 17th marked Global Dignity Day, a movement with a vision of a world where compassion, understanding, and love triumphs. Grand Erie took part in this global conversation in its own way with Day of Dignity, a unique event for secondary student leaders that included workshops, a keynote speaker, and a chance to develop and exchange ideas with fellow students.
“The purpose of the day is to help us all understand what dignity means in terms of worth and value, and the idea that we can transcend differences by focusing on our humanity, which brings us together,” said April Crabb, Itinerant Teacher with Safe and Inclusive Schools and member of the Day of Dignity planning committee. “But it’s not just a day to get informed and inspired; students are also developing plans that they will take back to their schools to begin putting this knowledge and experience they’ve gained into meaningful action.”
The event was an initiative of Grand Erie’s Safe and Inclusive Schools team, and was made successful thanks to the dedication of the planning committee. Approximately 100 students from secondary schools across Grand Erie took part, including members of schools’ gay-straight alliances, social justice clubs, and equity representatives.
The committee selected UnLearn to take on this year’s keynote presentation, an organization with a mission to inspire action and spark positive social change. Through UnLearn’s riveting presentation, students took away an understanding of the importance of human connection and mutual respect to improve the quality of life for themselves and those around them. The organization’s unique approach of using thought-provoking graphic design allowed students to begin unpacking important concepts of social justice. A poster activity started the critical thinking process.
“I think there’s a general lack of communication in the world today, which stems from a lack of understanding – there’s a lot of output without a desire to listen and honour our humanity,” said Breault, a Grade 11 student from Paris District High School who got involved in Day of Dignity through QUEST, the school’s gay-straight alliance. “I think the single biggest takeaway for me was being exposed to new perspectives today; understanding dignity through the lenses of racism and accessibility advocacy was really valuable.”
Day of Dignity is in line with Grand Erie’s Multi-Year Plan which prioritizes Equity, promoting practices that help students feel safe and welcomed, and works to increase a sense of belonging among all students.
The next steps following the workshop are for students to begin looking at how their unique school communities can benefit from and share in the knowledge and learning as participants implement plans of action. Breault has a talent in graphic design, and hopes to put that talent to use, developing images and artwork to spark discussion, build mutual understanding, and share the messages of the day.
“We’ve learned to look at dignity today as mutual respect and consideration, both for yourself and others,” added Breault. “I’m excited to get more people involved and see what we can do together.”