Youth are resilient, but still want to be heard

Schools went online in Peel Region after the Easter break. Toronto schools soon followed suit. Ontario’s shutdown directive now has a stay-at-home order. 

Area youth are likely very concerned. Yet, reflecting on what the community heard at the end of February from a youth panel at a Community Forum, these young people appear able to withstand another lockdown. When they answered questions about how their learning was impacted, if their future dreams were now fuzzy, they showed remarkable empathy for one another and their educators, friends and parents. Getting through the pandemic is a community affair.

That doesn’t mean being a kid in one of Ontario’s COVID hotspots has been without significant challenges. 

“(This) is the hardest period I have ever experienced with learning,” said Nathaniel who is in Grade 11 at John Fraser SS. “I learn much better one-to-one, face-to-face; even when I go to school, it’s not the same.” Grade 12 student Dima from Erindale SS said not being able to lead in school the way she envisioned, “has been very, very, very frustrating.” 

Students readily admitted there have been gains, too.  Anjali who is in Grade 8 French immersion said, “first I dreaded [spending time outdoors with family], but I got used to it. My favourite part was definitely getting McDonald’s ice cream on the way back from our hikes.” Grade 11 St. Joan of Arc CSS student Julian agreed. He gets outdoors more when he manages his time well: “I think [more flexible scheduling] is very freeing for me.” 

How can we help?

Moderator Lorretta Neebar, Registrar & Director of Enrolment Management at the University of Toronto Mississauga, led the panel to the big question: “How can we help?”

Dominique, a grade 11 student of St. Joan of Arc, said being listened to is important. She recommends that adults be more open and, “make it a regular practice to check up on students, even if it’s just like small meetings or just messaging.” Another Grade 11 student, Anita from John Fraser SS, adds that youth need more input from, “people who can actually offer us help with our mental health…I know to drink water. I know to go for a walk today, but I’m still struggling.”

Listen to area youth as they candidly speak about their school, social and home lives during the pandemic. Retired John Fraser SS Principal Mary Nanavati introduces Lorretta Neebar. The podcast is 52 minutes.


Thanks to more than 150 children, youth and family members who participated in two online sessions led by Dr. Rumeet Billan as part of Erin Mills Connects Beautiful Mind Day on Apr. 26. Dr. Billan talked about how nurturing the characteristics of a leader, such as patience, kindness and empathy, is more rewarding than many other achievements. She and participants acknowledged how difficult the pandemic has been, and Dr. Billan suggested strategies to cope with disappointments.  

In addition to providing grades 6-12 with a chance to learn more about themselves, Dr. Billan recorded her award-winning book for the youngest of Erin Mills residents.  Share her reading of Who Do I Want to Become? with your school and friends.

Dr. Rumeet Billan reads her children’s book to Erin Mills youngsters

Catch Dr. Rumeet on national news in honour of Mental Health Week (May 3-9), education and youth well-being, e.g.

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