Student Trustees

The Ontario Public Student Trustee Leadership Scholarship

The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association and the Public Board Council of OSTA-AECO are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024 Ontario Public Student Trustee Leadership Scholarship. This scholarship is based on an outstanding leadership initiative accomplished during the student trustee’s term and how the initiative positively impacted the students in their board. The intent of this scholarship is to recognize outstanding achievement and provide financial support to a graduating public board student trustee to assist with their post-secondary education plans, whether they choose to attend university or college or start an apprenticeship. This year there were eight submissions, and we thank all the applicants for their local advocacy work and initiatives. The 2024 recipients are:

Dora Chen, Near North DSB
After realizing there was a lack of Career Education information sessions, especially those directed at work and trade pathways, Dora created the Career Pathway Education Fair. The Fair’s purpose was to provide students with more “mindful and educated choices in their next steps after graduating high school.” The project took two months to plan and implement and was held by the NNDSB Student Senate. The fair was a unique opportunity that saw more than 2,000 secondary students attend. Students were able to meet and chat with industry professionals and learn the steps and requirement needed in each industry. The event helped students build personal connections with valued community members and future employers through one-on-one conversations. Dora will be attending Queen’s University to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce at the Smith School of Business. She also plans to continue involvement in student government.

 Julianna Marcel, DSB of Niagara
Julianna’s initiative, which included many hours of research and student-led advocacy, centred on improving school food services. A Student Trustee Senate survey revealed a significant demand for healthier, more affordable meal options. A proposal letter was sent to the board’s food provider and several meetings held to overhaul the cafeteria menu across all district schools. It resulted in a more diverse and nutritious menu that supports better student health and concentration, benefiting the entire student body of approximately 37,500 students across elementary and secondary levels. The board also provided funding to expand a culinary program at one of the secondary schools. Julianna plans to attend the University of Toronto’s Rotman Commerce program, specializing in Finance and Economics with a minor in Artificial Intelligence. She also plans to establish a tutoring service/website that recruits U of T students to support younger learners.

Winners of the 2023 Scholarship

Isaiah Shafqat, Indigenous Student Trustee at the Toronto District School Board
Isaiah, the longest-serving Student Trustee in the province, successfully advocated for a mandatory Grade 11 Indigenous literature course to be implemented across Toronto’s English public schools. Described as a “leader among leaders,” Isaiah’s academic, community service and leadership accomplishments are unparalleled. He maintained a 90% average while accumulating more than 700 hours of community service, volunteering to mobilize youth voting, plan 2SLGBTQIA+ Student Pride week (now annual), and events in support of advancing Truth and Reconciliation. This led to him recently being awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Student Volunteering. Provincially, he is the Chair of the Indigenous Relations Committee at OSTA, and has a provincial profile as an advocate for Indigenous Education, evidenced by the fact that he was recently invited as an Ontario nominee to the Honouring Indigenous Peoples Youth-to-Youth program in Winnipeg. Isaiah will be attending Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford campus in the fall to study law and human rights.

Kenzy Soror and Vaishnave Raina, Student Trustees at the Waterloo Region District School Board
Kenzy and Vaishnave worked and advocated together to create a new student election process that is now more accessible, transparent, equitable, and inclusive for present and future WRDSB students. This past February, every WRDSB secondary student directly voted for their representative in a board-wide election process for the first time in WRDSB history. Kenzy has been described as “instrumental” in the creation of two systemic changes, including the aforementioned election process as well as a new process for solicitation of the creation of more inclusive student feedback. In addition to creating a new election process, Vaishnave also ran the WRDSB’s Student Mental Wellness Conference, Asian Heritage Day and student roundtables. Kenzy plans to attend the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University for a “double degree” this fall in Computer Science and Business Administration. Vaishnave will attend the University of Waterloo for Geography and Aviation, with a dream of joining the Canadian Air Force as a fighter pilot.

Winners of the 2022 Scholarship

Vandy Widyalankara, Halton District School Board (HDSB)
Vandy is a Grade 12 student at White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville and has been a student trustee for two years. Vandy’s leadership initiative was creating a centralized forum for students to voice their concerns and identify improvements – the Student Human Rights and Equity Committee. The Committee is to launch officially in the Fall of 2022. It will be open to all students within HDSB schools and in particular those whose social identities have been impacted by systemic oppression and colonialism. Vandy has been an impressive student leader beginning with being an HDSB Student Senator in elementary school and a member of her secondary school’s Student Government. Vandy’s future plans include attending Queen Mary University of London and studying English and European Law.

Michael Yao, Rainbow District School Board (RDSB)
A Grade 12 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School, Michael Yao was instrumental in the organization and oversight of the “Stand Up Speak Out” conference – a conference for students, by students. This was particularly important given the pandemic. The conference included leadership speakers on topics of business, academics, health, reconciliation, and equity and inclusion, with keynote speaker Sunjay Nath. Michael has shown his leadership qualities through his commitment to student government. He plans to attend McMaster University and is enrolled in the Integrated Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences Program.

Winners of the 2021 Scholarship

Firdaus Shallo, Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
A Grade 12 student at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Student Trustee Firdaus Shallo has shown community leadership since a young age and has impressed her teachers, fellow trustees, and senior school board staff alike throughout her year as student trustee. Firdaus has been featured in the Toronto Star, and created the Ward 4 Community Advisory Council to counter and de-centre dominant narratives surrounding the Jane-Finch community where she lives – an area that has always been perceived as having high crime rates. She plans on attending Middlebury College in Vermont and double majoring in International and Global Studies and Computer Science.

Joy Liu, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB)
As Student Trustee for the OCDSB and a Grade 12 student at Colonel By SS in Ottawa, Joy Liu led a campaign and motion to fund free period products in OCDSB school washrooms called the ME (Menstrual Equity) Project. While drafting the motion for the ME Project, Joy made sure to consult multiple stakeholders including LGBTQ+ student clubs and the Student Senate. Two unique clauses were created – that products also be placed in male washrooms and that students be educated on how to actually use the products. Joy says the ME Project will improve school participation for OCDSB students for years to come by ensuring that no student missing access to period products needs to miss class, leave school, or use substitutes like toilet paper. She will be attending Yale University in the fall with a double major in political science and French or political science and economics.

Winners of the 2020 Scholarship

Anumita Jain, Greater Essex County District School Board
A Grade 12 student at Vincent Massey SS in Windsor, Student Trustee Anumita Jain spearheaded the creation of the Association’s Handbook to Menstrual Hygiene Accessibility as co-chair of OSTA-AECO’s Student Well-being Working Group to help student trustees in other boards address the inequities in access to menstrual hygiene products in schools. Following the successful production and distribution of the handbook in February, she launched a board-wide consultation of students in Grades 6 to 12 through the Student Senate in March. After five months of work, on May 19, Anumita brought a motion to the board to ensure menstrual hygiene products would be provided for free in female and gender-neutral washrooms by June 2022, which was unanimously passed by trustees. Anumita will be attending the University of Windsor for a Bachelor degree in Behaviour Cognition and Neuroscience, and plans to attend medical school afterwards.

Prasith Wijeweera, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB)
As Student Trustee for the OCDSB and a Grade 12 student at Bell HS, Prasith Wijeweera spearheaded a report and consultation asking Ottawa’s City Council to improve bus services for students. Some students in the city were busing up to two hours daily, an inequity given that many were in English as a Second Language or Special Education programs. Prasith compiled thoughts from 50 students into a report and sent it to City Councillors. After a four month process, OC Transpo staff announced that improvements would not be possible due to a lack of resources, but they did alter departure times to reduce connection waiting periods for students. Prasith is encouraged that transit staff acknowledged the report and did make some changes to service. He will be pursuing a Bachelor of Civil Engineering in Public Transportation at the University of Waterloo where he will be motivated to work on improving transit systems.


    Student Trustee Handbook 2022 – New Resource for School Boards

    OPSBA and the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association (OSTA-AECO) are pleased to announce the publication of a new Student Trustee Handbook, which was produced by the trustee members of the OPSBA-­OSTA Liaison Committee and student trustees on the Public Board Council (PBC) of OSTA-AECO.

    It has been created for use by all school board trustees to understand fully the requirements for the role of student trustees in the governance practices of the board, but also to build appreciation of and identify processes that will fully mobilize the valuable resource student representatives provide. A key goal is to standardize some of the activities in school boards across the province.

    In order to maximize their role, student trustees require support from trustees and school board staff. Having a strong support system allows student trustees to adapt to a new work environment, and receive valuable advice to further our leadership. Student trustees are the voice of students in decisions about education and they help keep students informed about important decisions that affect them.

    Download the Handbook (PDF)

    The Handbook is a “living document” that will be updated when new and relevant information becomes available. The Committee is also committed to regularly reviewing the Handbook for improvements and greater means of accessibility.

    Members of the OPSBA-OSTA Liaison Committee are:

    • Cathy Abraham, Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB / OPSBA President
    • Mike Brant, Hastings and Prince Edward DSB / Indigenous Trustees’ Council
    • Sarah Cipkar, Greater Essex County DSB
    • Laurie French, Limestone DSB / Ex Officio
    • Mark Mannisto, Superior-Greenstone DSB
    • Dr. Margo Shuttleworth, Halton DSB

    OSTA-AECO’s Representatives include:

    • Public Board Council President Jazzlyn Abbott, Renfrew County DSB
    • Public Board Council Vice-President Aisha Mahmoud, Hamilton-Wentworth DSB

    Special thanks and recognition to Huron-Superior Catholic DSB student trustee and Handbook designer, Adam Morgenstern.

    Student Trustee Handbook Cover