A group of high school students from throughout School District No. 57 (SD57) has premiered a video series tackling racism within schools in Prince George.
The four-part video series called Raising the B.A.R., which features interviews with past and present students, was produced by the District Student Advisory Committee (DSAC) over the course of two years.
It premiered at a special screening at Vanier Hall on Wednesday evening which included a welcome by Lheidli T’enneh Elder Darlene McIntosh and a panel discussion with Mayor Lyn Hall, trustee Tim Bennett, and superintendent Cindy Heitman.
Harsh Dhaliwal, a Prince George Secondary School student (PGSS) and DSAC Chair, introduced the films and explained how the project first began at the November 2020 DSAC meeting.
Typically, DSAC works as a connection between the Board of Education and the student body and meets once a month.
Dhaliwal said this particular meeting followed an incident of Blackface at one of the high schools and after discussing it and increasing incidents of racism following the renaming of Shas Ti – Kelly Road Secondary School, the group decided their focus for the year would be anti-racism work.
“With this project, we wanted to impact people through the heart and through the power of story,” said Dhaliwal.
“We wanted to evoke empathy through the power of storytelling and help people understand how racism is a systemic barrier and the impact that racism has and the negative things it does to people of colour in our communities.”
The students started the project planning to make one video, but with over eight hours of footage, decided instead to divide it into a four-part series.
The first video showcases stories and experiences, the second focuses on the impacts of racism, the third touches on hope and allyship, and the fourth video is designed for educators.
“This movement encompasses not only the demand for anti-racism work here in SD57 but also the push for creating spaces across all levels where students can be a part of decisions that directly impact classrooms and the greater community,” said DSAC lead and vice-principal of Indigenous education Katie Marren.
“This group has taken their role of student voice and moved it into student agency. Not only have they practiced and perfected voicing their concerns and opinions but they have also created encouraged and supported change and transformation.”
Duchess Park Secondary School (DPSS) student Kasia Eyob said she hopes the students who see these films fully take in the message.
“For me, it was emotional, for something that I have been experiencing my entire life, and for it to be put out there and to truly dig into that it was really impactful,” said Eyob.
“What I want to take away from this experience is to not lose hope that there are definitely allies out there that do want to continue this and want to learn about racism or be anti-racist.”
Olivia Masich, a grade 12 student at DPSS, said making these films was an educational experience and she hopes they can inspire change.
“Some kids may feel seen, feel understood and feel less alone and I hope other kids reflect on their actions and realize that what they are doing is wrong, what they are saying is wrong, and they need to step up because it takes everyone to do this.”
Before the screening, superintendent Cindy Heitman congratulated the students for their work and said she was hopeful for the future of the school district.
“Racism is a real thing in our community. Our school community and our community at large. To know that students are leading this work for our district and for out community makes my heart feel full,” said Heitman.
“To have Cindy Heitman, Tim Bennett and Mayor Lyn Hall here and to hear their responses to the films it made all of us at DSAC really proud that they’ve gotten that message that there is a need for change in this district and we want student agency and students being involved in that change,” added Victoria Schinkel, a grade 12 student at PGSS.
The video series is also available to watch online.