A Kickoff to a New Journey
My final years of junior high did not go as planned; the sudden switch to online classes and the COVID-19 isolation took a tremendous turn for me. I could not do the myriad of things I hoped to do in the coming months. The uncertainty that everyone had because of the skyrocketing cases and regulations made simple things feel complicated— I was not sure if I would even be able to have a graduation.
However, in my first year of high school and fourth year at Westwood Community High School — reality has slowly shifted back to normalcy.
This year was all about new beginnings for me.
At the start of this year, I applied to a summer program called SHAD. SHAD is a Canada-wide STEM program for grades ten and eleven to stay at a university for a month, listen to class lectures by renowned educators from across the world, and connect with students across Canada in the summer. I had heard many good things about the program, so I decided to apply. Going through the application process, I felt uneasy about it all. I wasn’t entirely confident I would get into this prestigious program because I did not have much experience with STEM-related activities. I knew I enjoyed math class at school and reading about science —there was no harm in trying. Instead of writing about what activities I have participated in related to STEM, I wrote about my life experiences and the various opportunities I partook in that enhanced my leadership skills. Staying authentic to myself is something I heavily value and is essential to getting into programs such as SHAD. In the end, I was accepted into the program and will be attending SHAD Western 2022.
Towards the end of December and early January, a few of my peers and I were invited to speak to staff members across FMPSD about diversity in schools and how we could be more inclusive in our school communities. Together, we compiled a list of things our school does excellently regarding inclusivity, addressing racism and discrimination, the different kinds of racism, and suggestions on how to build and enhance education for students. Listening to everyone’s different experiences and encounters gave me a sense of connection and belonging. Having this opportunity to speak up about my own past experiences to educators across the school board was new to me. It was not something I had been able to do before. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but speaking against issues that affect you is crucial to seeing change within your community or even the world.
Similar to speaking to FMPSD, I had the opportunity to speak at a youth panel this past February for Women of Inspiration and Girls Inc and have been invited again for next year’s panel. Having been provided with the stage and power to speak up against issues that concern many women of colour is an opportunity that many youths don’t get very often. This panel was presented to young girls from ages seven to twelve. Being able to speak to youth about what it means to speak up against discrimination, cancel culture, and the different ways young girls could take a stand meant a lot to me. Speaking about such topics was a stepping stone to creating a stronger future and being able to influence those younger than me. One of the biggest pieces of advice that I gave at the panel was about staying true to yourself. We are the next generation, so we must be able to change and morph the path into what we want.
Getting older is just another way of saying I get to do more “adult-like things.” Not too long ago, I sat in the driver’s seat of my family car and drove for the very first time. Started small just for coordination, but a start is a start. Last year, I was terrified of driving, scared that I would crash into a pole. Once I got to sit in the seat and take control, I slowly felt more excited than nervous. Having both hands on the wheel, I was ready to drive away. Taking small steps at a time helps, we all have to start somewhere. Gaining confidence in myself as I went on is important in all aspects, and driving is just one of them.
Grade ten was a year of anticipation, excitement, and trying new things. Taking risks and doing things I never thought I would do before can be frightening but worth it. It wouldn’t have been the way it was without the many new people I have met, those who uplifted my first year of high school was a year to remember, and I am simply just beginning my journey into an adventurous and new life.