NHS students reflect on becoming more active global citizens

·5 min read

A class of 13 Grade 12 students have wrapped up their final year at Niverville High School, having gained new insight on what it means to be global citizens. Much of this is thanks to an elective course the students participated in called Global Issues, Citizenship and Sustainability, taught by Adrienne Happychuk.

Happychuk says that the course was introduced into the high school curriculum just over ten years ago. The goal, she says, is to teach young men and women that being citizens of a community, a country, and the greater world means taking responsibility for making the world a better place in which to live.

“It’s about finding something that they’re interested in that’s a current issue and then [determining] how they can become agents of change,” Happychuk says.

The course is broad in scope, providing few limitations in terms of the types of local or global issues each youth can get involved in. With so few constraints, the students are exposed early on in the course to the almost unlimited number of issues facing the world today.

From there, they are at liberty to choose an issue that speaks to them on a deeply personal level. Their own passions drive them forward.

Students begin the five-month course by researching the issue that resonates with them and then looking for ways to get tangibly involved. They may choose to partner with a local or international organization, or they might take the initiative in implementing new ideas of their own.

It’s expected that hours will be spent outside of classroom time in volunteering, organizing fundraising events, or developing awareness campaigns.

Their final grades are based on a take-action project which is a compilation of their entire experience from start to finish.

“It’s all on them,” says Happychuk. “One hundred percent them. They have to problem-solve, figure out how to implement a plan, and in the end they basically do a reflection piece, reflecting on what were the successes, what were the challenges, what were the goals. And then they present it to their peers.”

A number of students this year chose to focus their attention on issues involving lovable four-legged friends.

“When I was looking at different topics that I could choose, animal abandonment stuck out to me the most and I was the most passionate about it,” says Jazmin, who chose to volunteer in her spare time at the Winnipeg Pet Rescue. “I wanted to do something more hands-on.”

MacKenzie, another student, had a similar outlook, but she chose the Animal Services Agency as her charity of choice.

Others, like Caitlyn, felt drawn to issues involving the plight of abused women. Caitlyn advertised in and out of the school, putting out donation boxes for feminine hygiene products and small toiletry items which she eventually delivered to Agape House in Steinbach.

“I’m a feminist and I really wanted to do something along the lines of women’s rights and something locally as well,” Caitlyn says.

Aiden chose the same charity as Caitlyn, but for a different reason.

“I had to stay at that place a while ago, so I just figured I’d give back,” Aiden says, who raised both awareness and money for the cause.

Similarly, Carly was drawn to the plight of women in crisis due to unexpected pregnancy, domestic abuse, or single-parenting on a shoestring budget. She partnered with Life Culture, also based out of Steinbach, and raised an impressive $9,525 in donations thanks to a number of very generous donors.

“It’s a current issue,” Carly says of domestic violence. “The executive director [of Life Culture], Susan, shared stories with me and talked about, even through COVID, how domestic abuse incidences have increased.”

Steinbach Family Outreach were the beneficiaries of Jessie’s project. He held a food and clothing drive to aid families experiencing poverty and homelessness.

Jersey collected donations of women’s and children’s clothing for Klinic, a Winnipeg-based organization providing primary healthcare and mental healthcare services, especially to those impacted by discrimination or oppression.

On top of that, Jersey raised $250 in cash which was matched dollar for dollar by the Klinic board.

Mitch confesses to having taken the easy route by volunteering ten hours of his time at the local MCC Thrift Store. It’s easy, he says, because volunteering at the store was something he had been doing long before the course began.

For Ethan, his passion for sport and compassion for fellow students meant that his donation of $600 would stay in the school’s Phys Ed department to help students who want to play the game but don’t have the means to cover the fees.

Ethan organized and advertised a basketball game between rivals Niverville Panthers and SRSS Sabres and sold tickets for two dollars each. The Citizen wrote more about this initiative back in May.

By the end of the course, all the Grade 12 students agreed that their individual experiences had an impact on them that would continue well beyond the classroom. For some, volunteering with the charity of choice would carry on after graduation as well.

“It made me more aware of what’s happening in the world,” says Mitch.

“It’s easier to make a difference than you think,” adds Carly.

In Caitlyn’s opinion, the entire course was a highlight from start to finish. “It was fun. I never dreaded coming to class to work on it. I liked being in the implementation stage the best.”

Jazmin summarized the course by recollecting the human emotion that results from doing good for others. “You get the feeling of knowing that you helped people and just seeing the relief on their faces.”

Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen

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