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Fort High student helps shape policy on education equity

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A Fort Frances High School student attended a two-day conference March 22-23 in Toronto to mark the Minister's Student Advisory Council's 10-year anniversary.

Angie Redford was among the 60 students chosen to attend the conference, where students spoke about issues important to them while also learning about the impact MSAC has made since it was established in 2008.

During her time with MSAC, Redford has had the chance to meet with and speak to Education minister Mitzie Hunter and Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Over the past year, she has worked with the council and helped create a “Education Equity Action Plan.”

Redford and fellow MSAC member Tess Bainborough worked tirelessly over the past year to draft this document, which is aimed at providing an equal level of opportunity for students living in rural communities.

With family living in Hamilton, Redford was able to provide insight on the differences between her education here and that of her relatives in an urban setting.

“It gave her a really interesting perspective,” said Angie's mom, Kim.

Angie Redford said transportation for sports programs is an issue here in the northwest, where families have to pay out-of-pocket, compared to urban communities in southern Ontario where such transportation is provided for free.

She explained the funding for these programs is on a per-pupil basis, so schools in Toronto, with thousands of students, are in a better position to provide free transportation than in a rural community like Fort Frances.

“In that way, Ontario's mission of equal education is getting a little lost in translation,” Kim Redford noted.

“The decision-makers don't see the challenges here.”

A lack of programs is another issue facing rural communities, Angie Redford said.

She noted advanced education programs lack funding in areas with low populations, so students don't always have an equal opportunity to pursue the career they wish to.

Through the “Education Equity Action Plan,” Redford is offering a perspective to the provincial government on where the educational gaps are for rural communities.

Kim Redford told the Times that MSAC was a great program that helped provide the government with insight from a variety of backgrounds.

“It's a way of sort of informing the government on their experience when it comes to mental health issues, so the decision-makers can get a handle on what's relevant and really happening on the ground level,” she said.

Angie Redford really has benefited from MSAC, and would recommend it to other students who want to see a positive change in their education system.

“I think MSAC was great for giving me a platform to say what I thought needed to be said,” she noted.

“I would definitely suggest that other students participate and apply because it's a great opportunity.”

Students who would like to apply for MSAC in 2019 can do so during the application period in late December or early January.

For more information about MSAC and how to get involved, visit www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/students/speakup/msac.html

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