The Mercury

You have the choice to raise your voice

Katharina Spöth, Writer

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Many students often feel the desire to get rid of something through speaking it out, but do not know where and with whom. Now a new place for this desire was established at BFA: the Students Voice and Diversity Club.

“The main intention is to make sure that kids feel supported but also to give them a way to communicate to staff, administration and the rest of the community concerns that they have. It’s a safe place where they can express themselves and talk about things they are worried about in school. There are all sorts of things that people are sad about and don’t necessarily know if there is a good place to talk about it,” Elijah Church said.

Church is a special education teacher at BFA and used to be the adviser for the Gay Straight Alliance Club (GLOW) for two years. However, as fewer and fewer students attended the meetings, Church felt it was necessary to reduce GLOW to one monthly meeting and to “open it up more, so that a more diverse group could come in.”

“I kind of expanded [GLOW] because there wasn’t much interest at the moment in GLOW.

I want to expand it into other things that I had done before in order to try to address other community issues that students have talked about with me,” Church said.

There are a lot of reasons to become part of the Students Voice and Diversity Club.

“You can come there if you had a problem or if something was bothering you and you didn’t want to talk directly to the administration about it. There are some many different issues that kids could be concerned about, like racism, sexism, classism. It could be a place where people come and talk about good things too, which would be really refreshing. I think student voice is important for kids to use, to practise and to develop because it leads to structure, democracy, community and relationships. There is a lot of room,” Church said.

In Church’s opinion, Students Voice is really essential for the school’s community.

“The most important thing about student voice is learning how to listen, which sounds kind of paradox, but if nobody is listening to you and you don’t know how to listen, voice doesn’t matter. So people just put their opinions out there [which] doesn’t matter without the listening component. So student voice would involve people bringing their opinions and their concerns but also listening to one another and developing relationships with other people and communicating and developing their ideas and doing something with it,” Church said.

But also the Diversity aspect of the club shouldn’t be forgotten. In this category, the online platform niche.com grades BFA with only a C+ and a former student commented that “there is absolutely zero diversity in this school.”

The Student Voice and Diversity Club seeks to establish a place where diversity is more supported.

“It’s also about promoting diversity. There is tons of little groups and initiatives that don’t necessarily have a place where they can talk. [For] the smarter communities that are part of the school that aren’t necessarily treated well all the time, it might be a good place to come and talk,” Church said.

Alexandrea Raymond (‘21) gives some interesting insights into what this club means to her.

“It’s about to make more friends and to speak up and not be afraid to. A lot of people aren’t very comfortable in their bodies and this club helps them to speak out and be comfortable about talking around people,” Raymond said.

She hopes this club could help the members develop their communication skills and even overcome some fears.

“I don’t speak to a lot of big groups because I’m not really comfortable. I think this club could help me be proficient in that, get through it and forget about it. If a lot of people speak out more I guess that would change people’s perspective on being self conscious, of when they’re speaking to other people when they don’t know them or a big group. As an adult you have to do that at one point. You don’t want to be less comfortable in yourself when you’re speaking out,” Raymond said.

Raymond appreciates the Students Voice and Diversity Club for being “a safe place”.

“If you want to go in and talk about anything, you know it’s going to stay in the room and we’re not going to tell it to anybody else,” Raymond said.

The club is still relatively new so there are many possibilities and open doors in terms of activities; exact plans for the school year are not yet set.

“Since it’s based on a student voice, it is driven by student motivations so if students want to do something more than just talk that’s available. Activities would follow whatever passions the kids have. It’s up to the students that join,” Church said.

The club is still small at the moment, so the group wishes to get more people to participate.

“I would like to get more people to come, that would be great. I would like students in the whole schools community to know that there is a safe place where they could talk about their concerns. It’s not necessarily the type of club where you have to come every week in order to participate. You don’t have to be a “member” to come to it. I think it would be for everybody who wants to be involved,” Church said.

Weekly but non-mandatory meetings are designed to give all students the opportunity to join to the club. They will be held on Tuesday afternoons from 3:00-4:00 p.m., in Room W-116.

And don’t forget, Church as well as Raymond both emphasize: “It’s for everyone, it’s for everyone who wants to join it!”

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