Julia Vo

Student trustee rolls out welcome mat for all

  • September 30, 2021

Student trustee Julia Vo wants every student to know they belong.

Heading into a third school year affected by COVID-19, the Grade 12 student from Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School in Cornwall, Ont., has been tasked with helping to boost student morale in the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) school community and the district at large.

Being back at school in-person, she hopes to rebuild a sense of community to counteract some of the damage from the isolation brought on by the pandemic.

In her second year as a trustee, being back in school has enabled Vo to connect with students on a closer level than in 2020.

“I think a lot of students this year, like myself as a senior, are really putting themselves out there,” said the 17-year-old. “There are some students whose whole high school has just been COVID so they never really had that true high school experience. As seniors, to help build community, we put ourselves in their shoes and we go around to classes to tell them about our activities and try to make them feel more welcome. We’ve got to make sure the next generation after us are able to keep that school environment (alive).”

The district theme of “I Belong Here” resonates deeply with Vo. Of Vietnamese descent, she is the first generation in her family to be born in Canada and admits she didn’t always feel like she belonged.

As an Asian-Canadian in Cornwall, there wasn’t a lot of diversity which impacted her own sense of acceptance. This year, she is planning a multiculturalism week at her school which she hopes will be adopted across the district. She’s also a founding member of Diverse Voices, a group where students tackle issues such as racism and sexism.

“Sometimes it’s really difficult for a person of colour like me to feel that sense of belonging because there’s just not many people that look like me around Cornwall,” said Vo. “However, through this committee, we all come together to make our school more diverse. ... I want to make sure that every single student knows that they belong to our CDSBEO family.”

Vo is very involved with St. Peter’s Parish in Cornwall where she serves as a greeter. She says God has been her source of strength during these challenging times.

“I believe that everyone has a place with God,” said Vo. “Growing up in a very accepting parish I think that really helped me because we believe that we are all equal. My priest would say everyone is welcome here regardless of sex, gender or race. I think growing up, learning those things, I became more accepting of people.”

Vo would like to major in business at the post-secondary level and is currently looking at programs that integrate the subject with humanities and social justice.

“Our Catholic school community is fortunate to have such a dynamic, intelligent and passionate student representative,” said Mindy Gibbs, Vo’s guidance counsellor. “We’re so proud of Julia and can’t wait to see what she does in the future.”

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