Board recognizes human rights ambassadors

A Markham student and a Stouffville student are among four recipients of an inaugural Human Rights Ambassador Award.

The York Region District School Board (YRDSB) award recognizes high school students who’ve made exceptional contributions to advancing the principles of human rights, equality, diversity, inclusion and/or anti-discrimination in their schools.

Lejae Daye of Bur Oak Secondary School in Markham initiated a school club in which members write pen pal letters to students in special education community classes. “At the beginning of the school year, one of the students in the community classes expressed concern to Lejae that she felt isolated from the rest of the school,” Principal Louis Lim reports.

Community class students enjoy monthly visits with their pen pals and have opportunities to practise their literacy skills. Lejae is proud to make Bur Oak a “more inclusive and caring environment. Just giving each student their letter and seeing the pure joy and happiness on their faces, I immediately knew my impact and it felt really heartwarming to me as I learned a really important lesson that the things we take for granted can make other people extremely happy,” she says.

Skylissa Gray of Stouffville District Secondary School is president of the African-Caribbean Student Alliance and represents her school on the Black Student Caucus, an organization committed to creating a strategy to dismantle anti-black racism board-wide. “What motivates me to achieve my goals is really just helping other people because I’m very passionate about others and equity for everybody,” she says.

“Skylissa is so warm and positive,” says Support Staff Tamara Hamilton. “She is really committed to raising awareness about issues, social problems…Her resiliency really makes her stand out from others.”

“Everyone has a role in ensuring each person’s human rights are respected at YRDSB,” says Board Chair Ron Lynn. “As a board, we try to set a positive example every day. We know our educators and support staff do as well. When we see students taking a leadership role in this endeavour, we are so proud. We look forward to celebrating the dedication of another group of human rights advocates next year.”

video and summary of each students’ accomplishments is available on the Board website.

Human Rights Ambassador Award recipients, from left, Raky Kane of Dr. G.W. William Secondary School in Aurora, Skylissa Gray of Stouffville District Secondary School in Stouffville, Lejae Daye of Bur Oak S.S. in Markham and Natalie Khallouf of Thornlea S.S. in Thornill at the Celebrating Student Success dinner on May 1. Image courtesy of the York Region District School Board.

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