How grads would change the world

·4 min read

If he could give advice to his younger self entering high school, Jerreme Macam would tell him to think more about life goals, socialize more and play fewer online games.

"I kind of shut myself in because I was too scared to talk to other people."

He was too worried about what other people thought of him—that they would think he was weird.

"I'm more open now with other people because they get my jokes and my sense of humour, so, it's been nice."

Castel says she would tell her younger self something similar.

"I would just say to stop being so introverted and shy...don't care what other people think.

Worrying about what other people think of her has kept her "from being myself."

It impacted her confidence, which kept her from taking advantage of some opportunities in school, she says, but that has begun to change.

"Definitely (I'm more confident). I think I speak out more, but I definitely have a long way to go before I get to where I want to be."

Oli Carungay says it's worth remembering that many people in high school will not become lifelong friends, so focussing on yourself and not worrying about what others think is a healthy attitude.

"Just because you put yourself first some people will think you're selfish...but I don't think you should think that's a bad thing."

The five Gordon Bell High School students, sat together around a classroom table island, a tower fan blowing warm air on them, to share thoughts about life. Everyone nodded as Hikma Abdella broke the ice with her answer to how she would change the world.

Racism and equality

"I would say racism. I would remove racism from the world."

Faith and skin colour should not factor in to how a person is treated, she says, but we can't just tell the world to change that—every single person has to do their part.

"If I treat a person equally, and if every single person could do that, change can happen, I believe."

Mariam Alnajar says she has seen, and felt, what unequaltreatment is. When she first came to Canada about four years ago she did not wear Hijab. Then she chose to wear it.

"I was treated way differently. I was treated unfairly."

She recalls a job interview. A woman interviewing her asked if she intended to wear Hijab at work.

"I said yes. I explained to her that it's my religion and she ended the interview that we had just started."

Alnajar says she was polite and respectful and the woman had no reason to end the interview. She is the same person, she says, with or without the Hijab. Being judged like that is hard to bear, she says.

Jade Castel says inequality affects her peace of mind as an Indigenous woman. She says recent homicides of Indigenous women are not getting enough attention from media and political leaders.

"It feels like they don't take our issues seriously. That makes me feel really unsafe."

People take up causes around Indigenous safety and justice, she says, but it often seems like a temporary trend and "people just stop caring."

She says stemming racism begins at home, with parents knowing that any bigotry they express is absorbed by a new generation.

"I don't think (ending racism) would be easy."

Poverty

Macam would like to see leaders not just work to reduce poverty locally, but turn more attention to other nations in the world. He says colonized nations—often colonized and exploited by the nations that are wealthy today—are suffering from "generational poverty."

"There needs to be change somewhere, and it has to come from the developed countries."

Developed nations take in immigrants from impoverished nations to build up their workforce, he says, which should give them a greater sense of responsibility to help repair the legacies of colonialism and help lift nations out of poverty.

COVID-19

Carungay says the isolating effect of COVID-19 has made her more appreciative of people.

"Similar to Jade, I'm more of an introvert, and I feel like the pandemic made me appreciate getting to talk to people in person and having relationships with people."

This positive response to the pandemic was not every young person's experience, and Carungay says she would also like to see youth mental health taken more seriously and have more resources devoted to it. Often adults tell young people they are "here for you, and you can tell us anything," she says, but too often it just feels like just empty talk or when youth share problems adults disregard them.

Teachers

Abdella is especially appreciative of one teacher.

"Miss Wright. She's very nice, she's very supportive. When I first came to Canada everything, literally, was so scary, but the way she worked with me, the way she showed me some stuff and the way she treated me, I would say it really helped me to be where I am right now."

After a short moment, Abdella had another thought.

"Actually, not just her. All of them are so nice and good."

All five heads nodded in unison.

Sean Ledwich, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf

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