Prince Albert area students chosen for first Sask. youth council

(From left to right) Elizabeth Pala, Sandra Leblanc and Louise Lacroix are representing Saskatchewan students on the province's first youth council. (Government of Saskatchewan/Submitted)

“It’s a really great opportunity and I hope to take something back to my school.” – Elizabeth Pala

Grade 12 students attending schools in and around Prince Albert will soon be representing Saskatchewan students on the province’s first youth council.

Those students are Elizabeth Pala from St. Louis Public School, Sandra Leblanc from École Valois in Prince Albert and Louise Lacroix from Melfort and Unit Comprehensive Collegiate.

This past May, Deputy Premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant announced his plans to form a council consisting of high school students. On Tuesday, he announced the members of the 2019-20 council.

They’ll provide advice and leadership to the ministry on how to engage youth in several areas.

“Students have a critical voice in education and an important role to play in improving the future of our province, and I am looking forward to hearing their valuable feedback,” said Wyant in a news release.

The province received 51 nominations from school divisions and education organizations.

“I’m very excited. It’s something I’ve been really wanting to do,” said Pala.

“It’s a really great opportunity and I hope to take something back to my school.”

Pala said she believes engaging youth starts with addressing the lack of resources for mental health.

In her small school in St. Louis, Pala said their counsellor is only there a few days a week: “In our own school, you’re starting to see a little bit more about mental health, but there’s not much awareness for it.”

“There’s not many resources for us.”

Additionally, Pala said students’ time with teachers is limited because of spilt classes. Her math class, for example, is shared with younger grades.

She’s been involved with the student council at St. Louis Public School since grade seven. In grade 10, she was secretary, becoming president in grades 11 and 12.

Pala also helps with sports games and school dances.

According to their biographies, Leblanc lives on a farm outside of Shellbrook. She values promotion and inclusion of multiculturalism, growing up with ties to farmers, immigrants and the Fransaskois community.

Leblanc is the vice-president of the student council at École Valois, overseeing youth engagement in the francophone culture.

Lacroix, on the other hand, grew up in Melfort. She’s involved in several local groups, including her school’s volleyball team, leading their Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) chapter and a longtime contributor to their Girl Guide Association.

She believes the best ways to engage youth are to address issues such as mental health and bullying.

The council’s first meeting will take place on Oct. 19, where they’ll discuss topics of importance to themselves and their peers with Wyant.