By Sue Tiffin
Alongside working on her regular Grade 10 school assignments due now Olivia Melle has been thinking to the future.
Improving mental wellness at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School organizing more school dances and events organizing new school spirit wear and creating a more welcoming school environment were all on her to-do list projects she wanted to take on as the HHSS G7 senate student representative during the 2020-2021 school year.
But first the Carnarvon resident had to get elected to the position she had hoped for since seeing a presentation about the role in Grade 9.
“I just want to do everything I can to better our school to help our students succeed in the best way possible” said Olivia. “I really wanted everyone’s voice to be heard and I knew I could do a really good job of expressing everyone’s voice and opinions. I know a lot about what other people want to see happen at our school and I know the current concerns or problems at our school.”
In her speech to the student body presented online due to students currently being at home after school facilities closed in March because of the novel coronavirus spread Olivia said she is focused on the quality and pricing of cafeteria food the introduction of open air learning so students can spend part of the day at least once a week in outdoor classrooms and updated school merchandise to help include those who don’t play sports but want to represent their school.
“I have so many other ideas I’d like to bring to this school” Olivia said in her speech. “Vote for me and I will fight for the things that are important to students no matter how big or small they may be. Let’s work together to make HHSS even better.”
The students did vote for Olivia electing her after a week-long campaign during an online election that allowed them to vote into the evening of April 27.
“I didn’t really sleep Monday night going into Tuesday when we were going to find out” said Olivia. “My heart was in my stomach.”
The announcement was made by HHSS principal Chris Boulay and vice-principal David Waito via an online call to Olivia and fellow candidates Emma Boutin Olivia Johnson and incumbent Jordy Schell.
“My mom and I were crying” said Olivia. “I was shaking and so scared for it to be announced then I heard my name and I was just crying – I didn’t hear much after that. I had to email Mr. Boulay – what did you say after that?”
Olivia celebrated with a blizzard from Dairy Queen.
The Grade 10 student first became involved in leadership as a Grade 6 student at J.D. Hodgson Elementary School where she was on student council until Grade 8 and when she began participating in We Day a youth empowerment event. She has excelled in her short time in high school both as an athlete – she plays rugby and soccer – and as a student – last year she won a geography award for top marks.
She said she worked hard to campaign for the G7 student representative position going to bed late and waking up early to run an online campaign that replaced posters in the school and announcements over the school’s PA system in an attempt to get her messages out to as many people as possible. And for the student who says she often faces challenges with self-confidence despite her successes the win is still something she is taking in but the work has already begun with a meeting last week between Olivia and other elected students from throughout the Trillium Lakelands District School Board region meeting for an online call to discuss the year ahead.
“They’re all so nice and they all have so many good ideas” said Olivia. “You hear all the ideas from different schools so we might get more events or ideas from other schools.”
David Waito HHSS vice-principal said the G7 senate student representative spot is a “coveted student leadership position in TLDSB secondary schools.”
“We wish to congratulate Olivia for her successful campaign and election and are very much looking forward to working with her to continue to m ake Hal High and TLDSB the great places they are” he said.
Waito said the HHSS staff is proud as well of the other candidates for their nominations and campaigns noting special thanks to Jordy Schell “for his leadership and contributions during his tenure as our G7 rep for the 2019-20 school year.”
Student leadership itself has been a particular focus in recent years at HHSS said Waito.
“Next year will mark the third year of our interdisciplinary studies student leadership course to which Paul Longo lends his talent and vision as teacher and co-ordinator” he said. “G7 student reps are members of this course and collaborate with other Red Hawk student leaders to support G7 and HHSS initiatives. During the first two years this course has run talented and dedicated student leaders have made great contributions to student life bolstering school spirit and helping continue to make Hal High an inclusive and positive space for all students. We are eager to see the meaningful work and positive difference next year’s groups will make at HHSS.”
Olivia is eager to get started.
“I’m so excited to see some change and express everyone’s opinions and voices and just be here for everyone a kind friend in the hallway or a helping hand to everyone” she said. “I’m just excited to be there for everyone and make a change.”