The fifth annual JustAsk celebration was held at West Credit Secondary School to recognize and celebrate the culmination of work by participating students. The JustAsk initiative brings together groups of students who are often not heard from or disengaged from school, as well as their teachers and administrators to drive action through its unique model.
"How do we begin to create a space where people know they matter? We need to hear, share, and reflect on the individual narratives of students, staff and ourselves," says Amie Tolton, instructional coach. "From there, we can take action to create learning environments that honour those experiences and implement positive change."
Students gathered in the school's atrium to showcase their work with guests. This year's initiatives included: Sandalwood Secondary School students hosted a Girls' Empowerment Conference, Central Peel Secondary School students engaged student voice through a feedback box and North Park Secondary School students created a mindfulness space for students and We Rise Together student advisory committee developed workshops for their annual conference. After a dinner prepared by West Credit students, staff and special guests heard from keynote speaker Ian Campeau. Campeau is a charismatic, impassioned speaker who draws attention to societal inequalities while promoting discussion and sharing of knowledge to help bring about change.
Ian spoke about the idea of success, measurements of wealth and allyship.
"The colonial measurement of wealth is based on hoarding. It's based on how much you can accumulate. The more stuff that I have, the wealthier I am," says Campeau. "The amount of money, the number of houses and boats that you have—the wealthier I am. But, there's an Indigenous measurement of wealth that measures how much stuff you can give away. If I can give away my items to other people and still be safe, that makes me a wealthy person."
He continued, "The fact that I grew more corn than you doesn't make me a wealthy person. The fact that I can share with you and we're both okay – that makes me a wealthy person."
From the idea of Indigenous measurement of wealth, comes the measurement of success.
"Success is a communal thing. It's a matter of how you take care of the most vulnerable people in your community. If everyone is taken care of then it's a successful community."
From success, Ian spoke about allyship and its importance promote inclusivity, empathy and acceptance amongst all races and genders in the name of social justice.
"There are three steps to allyship. If it's outside of your lived experience—be quiet. Number two—listen. When marginalized groups discuss and share their experiences, we have to believe them. Step three—do what you're asked. If you're in a space that's outside of your own community, you're there as a guest. If you follow these three steps, a sense of trust will be established with those communities that are not traditionally yours," says Campeau.
"We want to support students and create progressive, relevant and equitable learning environments that promote personal excellence," says Lindsay Watson, resource teacher. "We need to look for gaps that we can improve upon, allow students to add their voice and celebrate their successes."
Ian and friends began to host parties known as 'Electric Pow Wow' in 2007. The events feature a mixture of powwow recordings from his youth mixed with electronic music rhythms set to the backdrop of multimedia shows that re-contextualized stereotypical depictions of Aboriginal peoples from films and television shows. This was the founding of A Tribe Called Red.
In 2014, JustAsk creators David Badovinac and Amie Tolton, interviewed a number of leaders of non-governmental organizations, social justice and equity champions and education innovators. Rather than directly implementing initiatives, the JustAsk model facilitates action by helping members Invest, Involve, Evolve and Expand with the communities they serve. This process includes school communities fostering equitable change through just, effective and measurable commitments to action.
For more information, visit www.justaskpeel.weebly.com