High school student savouring TLDSB position
By Darren Lum
Published Dec. 24, 2018
It’s all about giving back. Grade 12 student Chloé Samson has loved being the Trillium Lakelands District School Board student trustee, voted by student representatives to start the school year.
The student trustee’s responsibilities include attending board and G7 Student Senate meetings. The trustee also attends trustee conferences in Toronto and Ottawa.
Samson has enjoyed the opportunity to represent not only her school, Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, but all the high schools in TLDSB.
“I have to attend all these meetings with open ears and unbiased stature as I can’t speak for everyone if I only speak from my perspective,” she said.
“I wanted to be the trustee instead of just a rep because I felt like if I didn’t go as far as I could then I wouldn’t be doing all I could for my friends and school,” she wrote in an email.
Samson wants to head east for her post-secondary school education.
Although she has been accepted to a few other universities in Ontario, she is still hoping to be accepted to St. Francis Xavier University for the undergraduate psychology program. With her grandparents living only minutes away, it’s an ideal situation to have family close, particularly when it comes to laundry, she said, joking.
Samson equated the approach she has taken as a student trustee to what she believes she would need as a psychologist.
“Doing the student trustee position I definitely am looking out for everyone and I’m all about student voice so I kind of have to go at things not from my views and my opinion, but from everyone else’s so I really have to listen to what other people are saying and try to understand how they’re feeling, which is definitely a lot of what a psychologist does,” she said.
She finds it difficult to overcome common misconceptions about her position.
“Sometimes the job is hard when students think my job is to just get cheaper cafeteria food or get them every club they’ve ever wanted because those are not necessarily things in my job description or are that easily accessible,” she said. “I do however love having a voice that can get to the people higher up than say my principal and when people ask me questions to look into or other information when I have the ability to get back to them it is very rewarding.”
Among the things students have asked to have improved: parking and toilet paper. On the surface these requests don’t seem very significant, but little things can add up to the overall atmosphere.
Samson said she and the G7 are currently working on a student survey with assistance from the board. The student survey is about improving the sense of community in school.
“We don’t have a lot of students coming to our dances or a lot of people joining clubs. I think that’s because we don’t have a sense of community in our school. I think as the student trustee ... one of the main goals is to create a sense of community and involvement. To get students more excited to be at school. Get them to join clubs and work harder for their grades and strive to be the best they can be.”
The G7 student survey will be released March Break. The idea came from a list of past work such as the Great Grain Challenge, the end of the year conference, and the G7 conference.
“We are pleased to be working with Chloé Samson this year as our student trustee for 2018-2019,” Larry Hope, director of education at TLDSB said in a prepared statement.
HHSS students have a strong hold on leading the G7, which is made up of students from schools across the school board.
G7 Student Senate representatives have voted for Highlands students to assume the trustee role four of the past five years: Tori Hawley, Carmen Galea, Madeline Hopkins and now Samson.
Samson knew Galea and Hopkins personally and believes their friendly personalities played a part in getting elected.
She said her speech was less about herself and more about what she hoped she could do for others, which was a contrast to her opponent.
Hopkins, last year’s student trustee, advised Samson to be prepared and open to meeting new people.
“I’m so happy that so many people from our school want to be part of it,” she said. “I definitely think, ‘wow, she did it and she did this and I have to do something that is awesome.’”
Samson said change is difficult and takes time.
“[Changes] won’t necessarily happen immediately because they have to go to the board and I have to get it through. I have to do a lot of things before I see it be accomplished, but if I don’t necessarily get something done then I will 100 per cent give it to the next student trustee,” she said. “Really, I don’t have a say if they want to do it or not, but hopefully they will.”
As a student trustee, she has a non-binding vote at the board level. Whatever motion she wants to introduce she needs to speak to a board member to put it forward for her.
Having an open mind has helped Samson with avoiding disappointment.
“I went in saying I’m going to do as much as I can. I told them I can’t promise anything, but just bring to me what you want me to do and I’ll try my best,” she said.
Her new perspective has humbled her.
The experience as a student trustee, which included a visit to all the schools of the G7, has broadened her knowledge of what challenges face all the students she is serving.
She learned about how Huntsville High School has close to 1,000 students and how I.E. Weldon Secondary School offers students the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, a pre-university course of study that demands the best from both motivated students and teacher.
As a person who doesn’t shy away from public appearances and speaking, she has noticed a heightened sense of confidence with the inherent duties as a student trustee.
“It’s given me another sense of confidence because when I’m in this position I don’t just talk to people my age. I have to go and speak to the board, which is all older people and ... then I have to kind of not be shy and get my opinion across,” she said. “If I don’t have confidence to put my hand up at the board table then I won’t get a chance to say anything to represent the students.”
Samson has appreciated how the TLDSB has welcomed her and encouraged her.
Before she went to any of the student trustee meetings, she was a little apprehensive about the other students. She thought they would be very serious academics who focused a lot on politics.
Now she looks forward to the meetings and has become closer to the other students.
“I’ve really connected with all of those kids now. We’re just like one big family,” she said.