Out and About | 18-Apr-2019

Rediscovering the People Power of UTS

UTS isn’t a place. It’s a community. Many have said these words, especially in the past few months as the school settled into its temporary location at 30 Humbert Street. But S5 (Grade 11) student Lian took tangible steps to demonstrate that the strength of UTS is in its people.

Last fall, Lian was one of five students who travelled to Shanghai, China, where she was inspired by a speech she heard at symposium attended by school principals from around the world. “One of the principals gave a speech on student voice and agency, and how it was so important for students to be given a space to talk about things that were important to them and make changes in their school.”

Before the March Break, Lian began planning a week-long series of activities at the school that would focus on students’ thoughts about various aspects of UTS life. “We have so many wellness groups in the school, but it’s a little decentralized, so one of the ideas we had was to meet with all the execs and see how we can support one another and put on bigger events.”

Rediscover UTS Week began on Monday, April 8 with an opportunity for student to place stickers on a map of the neighbourhood surrounding the 30 Humbert location to indicate their favourite places in the area. The following day, posters were put up on the walls representing the amazing things that student clubs and organizations do at UTS.

Taken together, the first two days of Rediscover UTS Week showed how school spirit had made the move from 371 Bloor along with students and staff. For Lian, the goal was to focus on positive feelings in the community and give her fellow students a chance to celebrate achievements, through the club posters, that weren’t tied to academic performance or competitive results.

Anchoring the week’s events was the UTS Day of Pink celebration, where students and staff faithfully continued a tradition that began several years ago. At an assembly, an outdoor pizza lunch and a march through the streets in the Queen and Ossington neighbourhood, students dressed in pink and proudly declared their support of the LGBTQ+ community and anti-bullying initiatives.

The next day featured a tea party in the Student Services offices, with students invited to join Principal Evans and School Co-Captains Elijah and Cameron to chat about issues that made them feel vulnerable emotionally. The week then wrapped up with a special breakfast in the gym, hosted by the Wellness team, during which students were encouraged to think and talk about future goals.

Left: Stickers dot the neighbourhood surrounding 30 Humbert Street. Right: Day of Pink decorations around the school.

Looking back at Rediscover UTS Week, Lian believes it was successful in creating a sense of open communication and dialogue on issues that are meaningful to students.

“What I've gathered is that this event has provided a great springboard for UTS to continue our conversations about community, trust and growth,” she says. “Moving forward into the future, my hope is that UTSers – whether they be students, staff or parents – know that UTS should be a space where everyone feels comfortable communicating and working together on whatever challenges arise.”

Lian adds that the planning and execution of Rediscover UTS Week was itself an exercise in collaboration. “I was so impressed and appreciative of the people who were involved in making sure the week got off its feet. Ms. Evans was there to support our tea party, volunteers from the UTS Parents’ Association helped out with our Wellness breakfast, Ms. Pitt-Lainsbury and Ms. Ewing supported it from its inception, and our team of students and staff made this happen.”

In the end, Lian and the dozens of people who contributed to Rediscover UTS Week can feel proud of having created a foundation on which the school can grow.

“One of the things I really believe is that we all are working to make UTS the best it can be. What is important is that we work together towards building the community that we want to have. Hopefully this week helped to move us towards that.”