To honour Black History Month, Garth Webb Secondary School in Oakville invited a diverse group of guest panelists to share their professional successes to inspire students to strive and reach their potential.
The school held two panel sessions to highlight Black professionals, who shared and reflected on their journey to success. The sessions included speakers from a variety of career sectors and educational pathways to provide opportunities for all students to engage with mentors who are leaders in their respective fields. Students asked questions about the challenges and opportunities in various careers and learned how to develop skills that support professional networking and achievement.
The panel sessions, co-organized by GWSS students, included individuals from professions such as medicine, banking and business.
Grade 12 student Olukemi Odujinrin says she hopes students are inspired by the stories they heard.
“Black History Month is a way to celebrate all we have done before, currently, and what we will do in the future.”
“It’s about showing people from the community that Black people do such a range of things; we can do any job or any profession,” says Soneva Davies, a Grade 12 student at Garth Webb SS. “It’s important to see what kind of career goals you can have and especially for people of colour, there is no limit.”
Guest panelist Wanda Shreve, general counsel with the Niagara Regional Police Service, was proud to be part of the panel.
“It’s important to speak to students to show them there are great opportunities for a lot of careers regardless of their colour,” she says. “It's really important to see people who look like them pursuing the careers they want to aspire to become.”
“The biggest thing I want students to take away is that there are many options for them in their post-secondary career,” says Sharon Lauzon, guidance counsellor at GWSS. “Hopefully this is an opportunity for students to see different people in a different light and know there are amazing opportunities.”
Sarah Robert, teacher and equity lead at GWSS, says the school made a concerted effort to highlight Black history throughout the month of February. In addition to the two panel discussions, the school made morning announcements about Black history facts and statistics, hosted various food celebrations which included pine tarts (Caribbean dish) and Halal chicken, organized a school visit with spoken word artist Dwayne Morgan, held movie nights and more.
“We have embedded Black history into our curriculum,” Robert says, noting that a psychology class she is teaching is highlighting important people of colour. “We really wanted the month to feel authentic. We want students to see themselves in the guest speakers, the panelists, and the food we’re providing. Black history is Canadian history.”