As part of UCC’s ongoing Character Project work, the Prep has relaunched its student council, its first since 2004.
Almost 30 Grade 7 colour house captains, community service leaders and class representatives comprise the new council, which is overseen by Prep character integrator Laurie Fraser and dean of students David Girard. It was created as part of UCC’s character initiative to develop the boys’ leadership skills before they move on to the Upper School and to give them a voice of influence at the Prep.
“In some of the research I’ve done around character education, and certainly in working with students of this age group, it’s really important for them to have a sense of autonomy and feel like they have influence in their school because that engagement and ownership of their school life deepens their connection to their school culture,” says Fraser.
The boys have different friends and bring a variety of interests to the table at their hour-long monthly meetings, which enables the council to get a broad perspective of student issues and wishes.
Fraser and Girard provide topics for the boys to discuss and one of the things Fraser has asked them to consider is what they want for the boys who will remain at the Prep while they graduate.
“Is there one change you would want to make or one initiative you’d like to begin, or is there something that really matters to you as a group to leave as your legacy for the younger boys here?
“They need to come up with a collective agreement on what they want and how you go about initiating change in the school. Who in the administration do they need to talk to or who are the teachers they need to get on board? What type of momentum do you need to build and how do you make something happen?”
The boys provide input on things that have already been established, such as the themes and promotion for the upcoming “Spirit Week.” The council members will organize a Feb. 20 assembly ahead of the following week’s events.
“They are going to completely own the assembly to share that information with the rest of the Prep and they’ll be instrumental in making it successful,” says Fraser. “Afterwards we’ll do a debrief with them so they can reflect on what they might do differently, what they might do the same and those types of things.”
The Prep student council was responsible for a powerful assembly in December that revolved around the White Ribbon Campaign and the “Montreal massacre,” and will take a leadership role in the assembly promoting Mental Health Week in May.
UCC received a proposal from the Toronto District School Board to take part in a “Kindness Week” initiative, and it was left up to the Prep student council to decide whether the school should join in.
“They discussed it and voted on it and decided that every day should be ‘Kindness Day’ here, and it should just be the way we are,” says Fraser. “It didn’t seem authentic to them so we didn’t do it, but we’ve brought the idea of kindness into our Spirit Week that would be unique to UCC.”
The young councillors have also discussed their UCC timetable expectations and how busy they are in balancing academics and co-curricular activities.
“Some of them get here at 7:30 or quarter-to-eight in the morning and don’t leave until five, and are so engaged in other parts of the school that they have no recess and no lunch break,” says Fraser. “Some of them thrive with that, but not everybody does. We want to look at what we need to do as a school culture to look at that.
“They won’t come up with a new timetable, but it’s really important that they have a voice rather than just a bunch of adults deciding what that is.”