Hundreds of students from Huntsville High School (HHS) walked out of their classrooms today at 1:15 p.m. in protest of planned changes to the Ontario education system.
The protest was organized by grade 12 students Cami Greenleaf, Emily McDougall, Chloe Peca, Madison Buck and Zach Belfry.
Carrying dozens of handmade protest signs, the students marched from HHS to town hall where they gathered to make some noise. Dozens of cars stopped to honk and show support in response to the students’ chants of “no funds, no future.”
The group was joined by some grade 7/8 students who were also worried how the changes would affect them when they enter high school.
“I originally saw a post on Instagram about BMLSS’s involvement in the #studentssayno movement and introduced the idea to my locker group the next day,” said Greenleaf. “After looking into it further, we decided that it was something we were all really passionate about, and something we wanted to take initiative in to create a change. It’s so important for young people to realize that their voice is important, and we want to spread that message to grades younger than us!”
Greenleaf said that Premier Doug Ford has recently proposed numerous changes to the education system that not everyone agrees with.
Those changes include an increase in class sizes which will result in less one-on-one time for students and a loss of jobs for teachers; funding cuts to the Ontario Autism Program which will remove essential services for students with autism; and four mandatory e-learning credits, a method of learning that not all students want.
“Even those of us who don’t feel directly affected by the new changes can understand how much this will affect the lives of students around us, and how it will negatively impact our education,” said Greenleaf.
Greenleaf, using a microphone and speaker so that the large crowd could hear her, made a speech to the students and those who stopped to show support.
“People think that we can’t make a difference because of our age and that since we’re just kids we can’t do anything,” she began. “But it’s because we are kids that we get to feel so passionately about this. So thank you for being such a bright mass of fireworks in a sky that seems to be getting so dark so quickly. I’m in grade 12 but I refuse to leave knowing that everyone I’m leaving behind is being starved of the education that they deserve and force fed the things that they don’t.”
Greenleaf’s speech moved many of her peers and the adults attending, and some were even tearing up.
The group also expressed that although they respect the leaders in government, they want to show how strongly they disagree with these decisions.
“The goal is to not only make the community aware of what is happening but also to spread the word through local media how passionately we feel,” added organizer Emily McDougall. “We want to make it clear to our leaders in politics.”
The #studentssayno movement was a province-wide initiative with walkouts occurring in Sudbury, Hamilton, Durham and many other cities.
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