Changing the world two hours at a time

Inspirational speaker Katie Zeppieri addresses students at the Proud of Pickering event.
Inspirational speaker Katie Zeppieri addresses students at the Proud of Pickering event.

It only took two hours to change the world.

On Thursday, October 30, Pine Ridge Secondary School in Pickering saw students inspired by public speakers, talks about bullying and equity for all.
The Pickering Family of Schools hosted its launch for this year’s character education effort, ‘Proud of Pickering’, with more than 100 students from Pine Ridge and neighbouring schools, guests from the board, as well as public speaker Katie Zeppieri and the lead singer of the Durham Regional Police (DRPS) music band, Scott Dargie. 
The theme of this year’s initiative is allying to global social justice issues in honour of the DDSB’s ‘Year of the Ally’. There are three rallying events scheduled, with students meeting together on May 7 to showcase what they’ve accomplished.
“Be the change,” said Noor, a student from Highbush Public School, a neighbouring school, “start with you and make it grow globally.”
Chris Braney, school board trustee and DDSB vice Chair, says he’s excited to see what will come from this initiative. 
“Anything is possible, and that’s what we try and instil with this event,” he said. “We’re very proud of all of you… we’ve had a great run here in Pickering.”
For about an hour, students broke into groups and discussed ways they can change the world, make an impact and causes for social justice. Social media was referenced as a place to start, such as the ice bucket challenge and selfies for silence. Students were encouraged to come up with their own challenges or events to raise awareness on a global scale.
Lisa Millar, Superintendent of Education, Pickering Schools and Early Years Childcare, says it’s a team effort going forward.
“Our focus is on how our schools and our students can become a global social justice ally,” she said. “You have to really begin to think about and understand equity, diversity, inclusion and some of the historic barriers that people have experienced so you can begin to think differently and look through a different lens.”
 Zeppieri is a DDSB graduate, founder of MakeYourMark (a website dedicated to encouraging and training leaders of tomorrow) and GIRL TALK (a social movement to empower women), took to the podium after students had charted out ways they want to initiate change and spoke about how she got started on her journey only a few years ago. 
In Grade 11, Zeppieri spoke to her former elementary school about bullying, “because I saw injustice happening from a very young age in my classroom,” she said.
Feeling inspired, student participants were then treated to a few songs, sung by Dargie, lead vocalist of the DRPS band called ‘The Heat’.
The environment slowly changed from a few bobbing heads and clapping hands to a full dance movement, chorus line and sing-a-long.
After Dargie wrapped up, a few words of thanks were said by Millar, as well as words of encouragement to the participants.
“This sets the tone for what you’re going to accomplish,” she said. “I’m so proud of the students in Pickering and what you do every day… Pickering students, go change the world.”
The crowd slowly filtered out of the cafetorium, with a number of students staying behind to organize tables and chairs ready for lunch.
Overall, participants left feeling energized and ready to take on new and exciting endeavours.
“We’re going to try and do a ‘You day’, so it’s what you want to be,” said Jaiea, a student from Highbush Public School. “It’s gonna trend. Hashtag youday, hashtag passion.”
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