Orange Shirts & Student-Driven Leadership

As one of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission reminds us, education is an important aspect of reconciliation. At KCS, we are working hard to educate ourselves so that the future looks better for everyone. On September 30th KCS took part in the nationwide Orange Shirt Day for the first time ever. It was all thanks to Liesl and Vivian, two young grade 5 students who decided to make a difference at their school and in their community. This is their story, told in their own words…

Liesl’s Story

My name is Liesl and I am 10 years old. My friend Vivian and I learned about the history of residential schools and the inequalities faced in education in Canada today. We made a presentation to educate our classmates last year, and this year we decided that it would be a good idea to think about Orange Shirt Day.

Our first job was to get our school ready for KCS’s first Orange Shirt Day, which is a day to remember the impact of residential schools on Indigenous people. We had to do a lot of preparation for Orange Shirt Day, but we got help from Ms. Gaudet and our parents. We got together during summer to work on a slideshow about Orange Shirt Day, which we would later present to grades 5 to 8 in Chapel. We also made a slideshow that wasn’t as intense for grades 1 to 4.

We then met up one weekend during the school year, where we made our own handmade orange ribbons for students and teachers to wear on Orange Shirt Day. We used orange ribbon and cut it 18cm long. Then we glued the ribbon to look like a breast cancer ribbon. Finally, we put safety pins in the middle of the ribbon, so students and teachers could wear the ribbon on their shirts. We also had a lot of fun making announcements on the P.A. system and at Chapel to remind students and teachers to wear an orange shirt school on September 30th.

I am so happy that I am able to help educate KCS about Indigenous peoples, their history, and their culture. I hope I can do this until grade 8, because it is so much fun!

Vivian’s Story

Orange Shirt Day is a day for honouring Indige

nous people. Indigenous people had to go to horrible schools, where their personality was unwillingly changed. Their long hair was cut, and they were forced to change their original names to English names. Liesl and I educated the grade 5 to 8 students about these terrible residential schools. For the younger kids, we talked about how amazing our school is and how lucky we are to be at KCS. We also created Orange Shirt Day colouring sheets to get everyone into the spirit, and to help everyone remember the date.

We realized that not many people have an orange shirt, so Liesl and I went through the process of making approximately four hundred orange pins. First, we had to decide what kind of pin we were doing, and decided on doing a breast cancer-shaped ribbon. We cut an enormous amount of ribbons, then we had to glue them all. Unfortunately, at our first get together we only made 77, so we had to make more at our houses. We ended up making enough for all the students and 27 extra ones for the staff.

Orange Shirt Day was an amazing experience for Liesl and me. It took a lot of work to research and plan the special day, but it paid off when we watched our work unfold. It was incredible when everyone came to school wearing an orange shirt!

Everyone at KCS is incredibly proud of Liesl and Vivian’s leadership. By taking on this challenge, they reminded us that we can all work together to do what is right. We’ve begun the good work that is required on the journey toward reconciliation. For example, our grade 3 students will soon benefit from a visit with Talitha Tolles, Community and Capacity Development Coordinator at the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council. We are proud that our students are passionate about learning more and are willing to take on leadership opportunities in this area. To read more about student-driven leadership at KCS, check out these blogs about student-led projects, the power of student voice, and student-run clubs.  

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