Program of Excellence funding from the Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation is connecting Indigenous and non-Indigenous students with peers, mentors, role models, and community leaders who committed to reconciliation social justice.
One Thunderous Voice was created to bring together students for the shared purpose of responding to Call 63 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to develop capacities for "intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect" in ourselves and our communities.
The project originated in 2018 with high school students from Mount Royal, Bedford Road, and Aden Bowman collegiates. It grew to include students from Evan Hardy and Tommy Douglas collegiates and, in the fall of 2019, middle years students from Caroline Robins and Confederation Park elementary schools. In total, the program involved 40 students, with Indigenous students in the majority, along with 10 educators.
Funding from the Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation supported student involvement in events and activities such as the Saskatoon Public Schools' Calls to Action Student Leadership Retreat, Canada Roots Exchange National Gathering at University of Saskatchewan, and the National Rural Education Congress. Collegiate team meetings and activities during year, along with the visioning and planning of One Thunderous Voice mentors, were also facilitated through the foundation's $5,000 grant.
"The Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation Program of Excellence Grant was critical to the growth and consolidation of One Thunderous Voice from September 2018 to December 2019," said Sherry Van Hesteren, the program's advisor.
"As we move into 2020, One Thunderous Voice mentors and students are committed to continuing to be a catalyst for truth, reconciliation, and intercultural solidarity among participants and the communities they affect. As our own school division honours its commitment to responding to the Calls to Action, it can call upon One Thunderous Voice to provide student voice and leadership."
Opportunities offered as part of the program supported engagement in learning through students' presence and contribution to real-world events and forums related to Truth and Reconciliation. By engaging in higher-order thinking, collaboration, and communication in diverse contexts, students strengthened their skills for present and future academic success.
The student leadership retreat provided participants with a significant opportunity to ground themselves in the Calls to Action and to identify ways to respond to these calls within their collegiates and lives. With the guidance of teacher and Indigenous mentors, students discussed and reflected on key statements from The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, and Saskatoon Public Schools' Response to the Calls to Action.
In talking circles, students shared and examined their experiences, knowledge, and questions in themes related to education including eliminating racism, treaty relationships, removing barriers to learning and activities, and decolonizing the classroom.
Opportunities to engage in e-journalism at events such as the Canada Roots Exchange and the National Rural Education Congress allowed students to build their skills as they shared their works in progress and encouraged delegates to interact with one another and session presenters in real time on the One Thunderous Voice website at onethunderousvoice.com.
Involvement in One Thunderous Voice motivated and inspired students to seek opportunities in their classes, schools, and communities in order to deepen and share their knowledge in relation to the Calls to Action. Several students were able to use their contributions to One Thunderous Voice to meet outcomes for the Leadership 30 course.
Overall, the growth of One Thunderous Voice to include both middle years and high school students has the potential to contribute to Indigenous students' smooth transition from elementary school to high school.
"(One Thunderous Voice) provided students with a sense of belonging, pride, humility, and power," Van Hesteren said. "It introduced students to organizations like the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission and Canada Roots Exchange and the team is now receiving invitations to contribute as participants and leaders in various events and initiatives."