OLD PERLICAN, NL — Students at Baccalieu Collegiate have been working hard to spread a message of inclusivity.
When approaching one of Baccalieu’s entrances, it would be difficult to not feel welcome from the moment you step onto the parking lot. This feeling can likely be attributed to all the work students at the school have put into ensuring their school is one where people of all walks of life feel included.
From the heartwarming notes that dot the hallway walls to the newly painted walkways leading into the building, there is no shortage of efforts made by students at this Grade 7-12 school.
This ongoing theme is nothing new to both students and staff at Baccalieu Collegiate. Despite rainbow-painted crosswalks, and inclusion of the LGBTQ community in general, teacher Maureen Gillingham said students had been planning projects such as this for a while. She says the idea to paint one of the school’s walkways was something the student council had been sitting on for a number of months.
“We elect a student council every year in October, and last year they asked if they could have permission to buy some paint to paint (the walkway) rainbow colours,” Gillingham explained. “We had worked with a couple students here who were talking about certain things – sexuality, and everything that goes along with it – and we recognized that maybe, as a student council, this was something we could tackle as a group.”
From there, a project spanning three weekends was started, where students painted rocks a multitude of colours to line the entrances to the school. Now, these rocks can be seen along the sidewalks around the school, acting as the beginning of a larger project centered around inclusion.
The idea to paint the walkway came soon after this. However, due to Newfoundland’s unpredictable weather — alongside the many extracurricular activities students were involved in — it was difficult for them to find a time during the weekends that worked for everyone. So, the paint sat in the school for approximately six months before the group could get together and give the project the time and dedication they felt it deserved.
“It was actually months before the situation in Springdale happened that we had this planned, it was just difficult for us to find a good time to get together, where the weather was actually good enough to be out there at it,” Gillingham said. “The rocks were done, that was phase one, but we needed to get phase two going before it was too late. We had the paint, so it was just a matter of putting it to use.”
With the help of Amanda Powell-Sellars, the school’s art and technology teacher, the group was able to get the second phase of their project going. This all came to fruition around the same time that a similar rainbow-coloured crosswalk idea was denied by council members in Springdale, something Gillingham worried would be wrongly connected to Baccalieu’s efforts.
“I was afraid it was going to be perceived that we were doing this because a reaction to Springdale – it wasn’t,” she said. “In fact, we’ve had this in the works for months prior, because inclusion is something that’s been sort of an ongoing theme with students here for years and years.”
This feeling of inclusion that students have been striving for can be felt from within the school’s walls, as well. Bright coloured sticky notes can be seen in a number of places around the school, each with a heartwarming, uplifting message to share to anyone who may need it.
This idea, which was named the You’re Worth It Movement, came from students Brittany Wheeler and Sydney Knapman, who said they understood how much of an impact the little things can have on an individual.
“There’s quite a bit of negativity around, and that can be draining,” Wheeler said.
“We thought, well, maybe people just need a reminder.”
“When someone next to you is complaining or saying something negative, now you can just look up at the wall and see something positive,” Knapman added. “A small inspirational quote or tidbit can do a lot for someone, I think.”
With notes along the walls reminding people that “difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations,” or colourful crosswalks welcoming anyone and everyone, Baccalieu Collegiate’s strive for inclusion and acceptance, in the eyes of students and staff, has been a successful one, with no end to the projects in sight.