Mental health, advocacy top of mind for WRDSB student trustees-elect

Nicole Vishkin and Kenzy Soror, who both attend Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute, have been elected as next year’s student trustees with the Waterloo Region District School Board.

2 elected to represent the student body next year

Nicole Vishkin, left, and Kenzy Soror are the student trustee-elects for the Waterloo Region District School Board. (Google Meet )

The incoming student trustees with the Waterloo Region District School Board plan to elevate the voice of their student body and ensure their peers in the region feel supported.

Nicole Vishkin and Kenzy Soror, students at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute, will represent the student body and liaison with the board in their roles for the next school year.

"Student advocacy is a shared commitment and the role of a student trustee is to be the face of that, but really you want to be the helping hand and offer those words of encouragement to the students so that they can directly address their needs," said Vishkin.

She said the biggest student concern, by far, has been mental health, followed by workload, bullying, harassment and human rights inequity.

"A lot of students are concerned about student voice, racism, discrimination … even things like dress code, period products."

Vishkin has plans to engage a diverse spectrum of voices in student discussions, including the LGBTQ+, Black and Muslim student communities, to: "Further the discourse between students who feel they are lacking representation and the board."

The first step toward combatting the lack of diversity is by being there.- Kenzy Soror, student trustee-elect 

She said she's eager to connect with student senate representatives and equip them with tools to support their individual schools. For example, they can publish a list of mental-health resources on their school's website.

Amplifying student voices 

Kenzy Soror agrees mental health is a major concern, and has big plans to address it.

"Destigmatizing mental-health issues among students is indispensable and I don't think there is a way around that without supplementing the curriculum with a mental-health unit, so that is something I will push for. I will also advocate for a mental-health task force … assemblies … and regularly streamed talks with professionals."

Soror, whose mother tongue is Arabic, said she ran for student trustee partly because she wanted to connect with students who may have language barriers or are underrepresented.

"The first step toward combatting the lack of diversity is by being there," she said. "Voices we hear yet we don't understand are just disregarded as noise. So, my ability to understand an even greater scope of students will help me amplify their voice and make sure that they are heard."

Soror said other challenges include diversity and inclusion among staff members, and online learning model challenges.

She plans to create an open form of communication accessible to all students, whether via a Google form, the board website or an app. She's using the hashtag #allearskw online in an attempt to make student trustee news accessible.

Both Vishkin and Soror start their term on Aug. 1.

In the meantime, they're busy planning for the year ahead.