The Ontario Public Student Trustee Leadership Scholarship
The Ontario Public Student Trustee Leadership Scholarship is an award jointly provided by the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and the Public Board Council of OSTA-AECO. The intent is to recognize outstanding achievement in a leadership role and provide financial support to a graduating public board student trustee to assist with their post-secondary education plans (University, College, or Apprenticeship).
Student trustees represent the voice of students in decisions on education, and keep students informed of the changes in education which affect them. They play an important role in the education governance process and are actively working at the local board and provincial levels on a number of initiatives.
This scholarship is based on an outstanding initiative accomplished during the student trustee’s term and how the initiative positively impacted the students in their board. Two scholarships, in the amount of $500 each, will be awarded.
The successful recipient must:
- Be a student trustee who completed a one or two-year term at a public school board and will be continuing their education in a post-secondary/apprenticeship setting in Fall 2023
- Submit a completed scholarship application that highlights a student trustee’s successful leadership initiative that made progress in ensuring the education system better reflects student needs and priorities
All submissions will be reviewed by a committee composed of OSTA-AECO’s Public Board Council executive members and trustees on the OPSBA-OSTA Liaison Committee.
Winners of the 2023 Scholarship
Isaiah Shafqat, Indigenous Student Trustee at the Toronto District School Board
Isaiah, the longest-serving Student Trustee in the province, successfully advocated for a mandatory Grade 11 Indigenous literature course to be implemented across Toronto’s English public schools. Described as a “leader among leaders,” Isaiah’s academic, community service and leadership accomplishments are unparalleled. He maintained a 90% average while accumulating more than 700 hours of community service, volunteering to mobilize youth voting, plan 2SLGBTQIA+ Student Pride week (now annual), and events in support of advancing Truth and Reconciliation. This led to him recently being awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Student Volunteering. Provincially, he is the Chair of the Indigenous Relations Committee at OSTA, and has a provincial profile as an advocate for Indigenous Education, evidenced by the fact that he was recently invited as an Ontario nominee to the Honouring Indigenous Peoples Youth-to-Youth program in Winnipeg. Isaiah will be attending Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford campus in the fall to study law and human rights.
Kenzy Soror and Vaishnave Raina, Student Trustees at the Waterloo Region District School Board
Kenzy and Vaishnave worked and advocated together to create a new student election process that is now more accessible, transparent, equitable, and inclusive for present and future WRDSB students. This past February, every WRDSB secondary student directly voted for their representative in a board-wide election process for the first time in WRDSB history. Kenzy has been described as “instrumental” in the creation of two systemic changes, including the aforementioned election process as well as a new process for solicitation of the creation of more inclusive student feedback. In addition to creating a new election process, Vaishnave also ran the WRDSB’s Student Mental Wellness Conference, Asian Heritage Day and student roundtables. Kenzy plans to attend the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University for a “double degree” this fall in Computer Science and Business Administration. Vaishnave will attend the University of Waterloo for Geography and Aviation, with a dream of joining the Canadian Air Force as a fighter pilot.
Winners of the 2022 Scholarship
- Vandy Widyalankara, Halton District School Board (HDSB)
Vandy is a Grade 12 student at White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville and has been a student trustee for two years. Vandy’s leadership initiative was creating a centralized forum for students to voice their concerns and identify improvements – the Student Human Rights and Equity Committee. The Committee is to launch officially in the Fall of 2022. It will be open to all students within HDSB schools and in particular those whose social identities have been impacted by systemic oppression and colonialism. Vandy has been an impressive student leader beginning with being an HDSB Student Senator in elementary school and a member of her secondary school’s Student Government. Vandy’s future plans include attending Queen Mary University of London and studying English and European Law.
- Michael Yao, Rainbow District School Board (RDSB)
A Grade 12 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School, Michael Yao was instrumental in the organization and oversight of the “Stand Up Speak Out” conference – a conference for students, by students. This was particularly important given the pandemic. The conference included leadership speakers on topics of business, academics, health, reconciliation, and equity and inclusion, with keynote speaker Sunjay Nath. Michael has shown his leadership qualities through his commitment to student government. He plans to attend McMaster University and is enrolled in the Integrated Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences Program.
Winners of the 2021 Scholarship
- Firdaus Shallo, Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
A Grade 12 student at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Student Trustee Firdaus Shallo has shown community leadership since a young age and has impressed her teachers, fellow trustees, and senior school board staff alike throughout her year as student trustee. Firdaus has been featured in the Toronto Star, and created the Ward 4 Community Advisory Council to counter and de-centre dominant narratives surrounding the Jane-Finch community where she lives – an area that has always been perceived as having high crime rates. She plans on attending Middlebury College in Vermont and double majoring in International and Global Studies and Computer Science.
- Joy Liu, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB)
As Student Trustee for the OCDSB and a Grade 12 student at Colonel By SS in Ottawa, Joy Liu led a campaign and motion to fund free period products in OCDSB school washrooms called the ME (Menstrual Equity) Project. While drafting the motion for the ME Project, Joy made sure to consult multiple stakeholders including LGBTQ+ student clubs and the Student Senate. Two unique clauses were created – that products also be placed in male washrooms and that students be educated on how to actually use the products. Joy says the ME Project will improve school participation for OCDSB students for years to come by ensuring that no student missing access to period products needs to miss class, leave school, or use substitutes like toilet paper. She will be attending Yale University in the fall with a double major in political science and French or political science and economics.
Winners of the 2020 Scholarship
- Anumita Jain, Greater Essex County District School Board
A Grade 12 student at Vincent Massey SS in Windsor, Student Trustee Anumita Jain spearheaded the creation of the Association’s Handbook to Menstrual Hygiene Accessibility as co-chair of OSTA-AECO’s Student Well-being Working Group to help student trustees in other boards address the inequities in access to menstrual hygiene products in schools. Following the successful production and distribution of the handbook in February, she launched a board-wide consultation of students in Grades 6 to 12 through the Student Senate in March. After five months of work, on May 19, Anumita brought a motion to the board to ensure menstrual hygiene products would be provided for free in female and gender-neutral washrooms by June 2022, which was unanimously passed by trustees. Anumita will be attending the University of Windsor for a Bachelor degree in Behaviour Cognition and Neuroscience, and plans to attend medical school afterwards.
- Prasith Wijeweera, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB)
As Student Trustee for the OCDSB and a Grade 12 student at Bell HS, Prasith Wijeweera spearheaded a report and consultation asking Ottawa’s City Council to improve bus services for students. Some students in the city were busing up to two hours daily, an inequity given that many were in English as a Second Language or Special Education programs. Prasith compiled thoughts from 50 students into a report and sent it to City Councillors. After a four month process, OC Transpo staff announced that improvements would not be possible due to a lack of resources, but they did alter departure times to reduce connection waiting periods for students. Prasith is encouraged that transit staff acknowledged the report and did make some changes to service. He will be pursuing a Bachelor of Civil Engineering in Public Transportation at the University of Waterloo where he will be motivated to work on improving transit systems.
Student Trustee Handbook 2022 – New Resource for School Boards
OPSBA and the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association (OSTA-AECO) are pleased to announce the publication of a new Student Trustee Handbook, which was produced by the trustee members of the OPSBA-OSTA Liaison Committee and student trustees on the Public Board Council (PBC) of OSTA-AECO.
It has been created for use by all school board trustees to understand fully the requirements for the role of student trustees in the governance practices of the board, but also to build appreciation of and identify processes that will fully mobilize the valuable resource student representatives provide. A key goal is to standardize some of the activities in school boards across the province.
In order to maximize their role, student trustees require support from trustees and school board staff. Having a strong support system allows student trustees to adapt to a new work environment, and receive valuable advice to further our leadership. Student trustees are the voice of students in decisions about education and they help keep students informed about important decisions that affect them.
The Handbook is a “living document” that will be updated when new and relevant information becomes available. The Committee is also committed to regularly reviewing the Handbook for improvements and greater means of accessibility.
Members of the OPSBA-OSTA Liaison Committee are:
- Cathy Abraham, Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB / OPSBA President
- Mike Brant, Hastings and Prince Edward DSB / Indigenous Trustees’ Council
- Sarah Cipkar, Greater Essex County DSB
- Laurie French, Limestone DSB / Ex Officio
- Mark Mannisto, Superior-Greenstone DSB
- Dr. Margo Shuttleworth, Halton DSB
OSTA-AECO’s Representatives include:
- Public Board Council President Jazzlyn Abbott, Renfrew County DSB
- Public Board Council Vice-President Aisha Mahmoud, Hamilton-Wentworth DSB
Special thanks and recognition to Huron-Superior Catholic DSB student trustee and Handbook designer, Adam Morgenstern.
Relevant Documents and Links Related to Student Trustees
- Ontario Regulation 7/07 – Student Trustees
- OSTA-AECO Student’s Vision for Education – May 2019
- Results of the 2017 Ontario Student, Parent and Educators Survey
- OPSBA letter to the Minister of Education regarding the role of Student Trustees
- OPSBA’s comments on the Role and Responsibility of Student Trustees
- Hicks Morley legal update on Student Trustees