Keith Baybayon.

TCDSB student trustee puts focus on mental health

  • September 12, 2020

Student mental health will be the top priority for 15-year-old Keith Baybayon in his new role as Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) student trustee this fall.

The Grade 11 student at Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School, who took his oath of office Aug. 20, will bring some experience with the subject to the table as he’s been busy over the pandemic summer volunteering with various mental health initiatives. He’s on the National Youth Advisory Committee for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and worked with the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Baybayon says it was his own challenges with school after lockdown restrictions came into effect earlier this year that taught him the importance of prioritizing the psychological well-being of students.

“I put too much pressure on myself to be the best that I could be even though people were encouraging me to take breaks sometimes,” said Baybayon, who finished Grade 10 with a 95-per-cent average. “I was literally burning myself out and I didn’t know that I was doing that until my friends made me realize that I need a break to focus on my mental stability.”

Spending time talking with peers was enough to take Baybayon out of what he calls a “dark place.” That experience pushed him to be there for friends who have been struggling and helped him recognize that for many youth the help of a mental health professional is necessary.

The student trustee role was implemented by the TCDSB 20 years ago and gives two secondary school students the opportunity to advocate at the board level for the needs of the 91,000 students across the TCDSB. Outgoing senior trustee Taylor Dallin is moving on to begin studies at Yale University and will be succeeded by first-year representative Kathy Nguyen, a Grade 12 student at Madonna Catholic Secondary. Baybayon is the new junior trustee.

During her years as student trustee Dallin successfully fought for the board to go paperless at board meetings and advocated for the hiring of more BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Colour) and the purchase of more BIPOC books. Baybayon says that with the success of his predecessors, he has big shoes to fill, but is up to the challenge.  

“I know this is my first term out of the two, but I don’t want to be quiet,” said Babayon. “I want to somehow use my voice because the outgoing students gave me such high standards to try and reach. I don’t want to waste any time. I want to make a difference.”

The trustee chairs the Catholic Student Leadership Impact Team, a board-wide student leadership council. Baybayon was also chosen OSTA-AECO’s Catholic Board Council Faith Ambassador, where he plans to lead faith-based initiatives and events to encourage student engagement, while incorporating student mental and physical well-being.

After months of online learning Baybayon is pleased to be back in school in September and looks forward to hitting the ground running in his new role.

“I’m most excited to finally be back to school and seeing all my friends,” he said. “I also look forward to implementing all the initiatives me and my co-student trustee have planned.”

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