This fall, Québec’s secondary school students are feeling great about being back at school. At École secondaire Henri-Bourassa, in Montréal, students are keen to make up for time lost during the pandemic, as demonstrated by their eagerness to take up positions in clubs and committees. Registrations have doubled with the Amnesty International group, and they have tripled with the Philosophy Club and the LGBTQ+ Committee.
“The committees are opportunities for young people not only to get involved but also to get the other students on board,” explains Mireille Hajjar. “This is directly linked to the school atmosphere and students’ sense of belonging to the school, which evaporated during the pandemic.”
The students’ enthusiasm has also spread to community projects. This year, 200 students registered for a visit to Moisson Montréal: twice as many as last year. “It’s a first for me!” says Mireille Hajjar, clearly delighted. “They sign up for everything, they want to do everything. They jump on any opportunity because they long for a social life. And a social life starts at school, through sports and extra-curricular activities.”
This kind of involvement enables young people to find meaning again, to explore a commitment to citizenship and to contribute to society. It’s as beneficial for students as it is for their community.
Being there for young people
The role of spiritual care and guidance and community involvement animators is a response to secondary school students’ huge need for belonging and self esteem. When the pandemic hit, students could no longer take part in extra-curricular activities or practise their sport, losing out on the social life they found at school.
To help young people during the crisis, Mireille Hajjar produced capsules about well-being with the school’s psychologists and psycho-educators. The goal is to help them manage their stress and encourage physical exercise. The animator also suggested a few ideas enabling students to decorate the classroom based on their tastes, a way of finding new perspectives.
And the outcome?
In Mireille Hajjar’s view, the students’ enthusiasm for community involvement will survive the pandemic. “The crisis affected many young people who did not experience their year in the way they should have. They were deprived of the things they loved. Now, they are taking up those opportunities once again. It’s the nature of youth to get involved!”