By Gurveen Dhaliwal
Two months ago, I announced that I’m running to be a New Westminster school trustee. Since then, I’ve learned a lot from sweaty evenings knocking on doors: the dewy look on my face is actually kind of flattering, comfortable shoes make the hills of New West slightly more manageable, and people really care about our schools.
Community starts in schools. I want to foster and encourage community building in New West schools and this idea has been at the forefront of my campaign. My platform commitments are based on my experiences growing up in the public school system in New West and reflect the opportunities that I see to champion inclusive and supportive schools for all.
Changing how we talk about and support mental health in schools is one of my biggest priorities. We need to start destigmatizing what is one of the most universal human experiences. Each time I bring this up with folks I meet at community events or on the doorstep, discussions about mental health really resonate. I’m encouraged to see that what I believe in is what the community values.
We need to increase support services for students and families through peer-to-peer support programs and safe spaces in schools; tools, skills, training and resources for students to manage and cope with mental health issues; and additional training and support for staff. All of these ideas are affordable and would make a huge difference to the lives of students, families and the overall community.
Growing up as a first-generation Canadian, my biggest challenge was balancing and navigating two competing cultural realities. There were a lot of things that I could never talk about or never knew how to do. I experienced stress, pressure, and grief that could have been preventable.
I want to initiate steps that move away from a one-size fits all approach, and toward one that can be adapted to the diverse lived experiences of our students and their families. To make this a reality, we need inclusive policymaking that is culturally accessible, available, accommodating, accepting, and affordable. This also flows over to another commitment of mine: increasing transparency and engagement, particularly with new immigrants and working class families. How do schools become welcoming community spaces for those who have traditionally never felt like they belonged? Let’s ask them and let’s adapt.
My commitments reflect the foundational aspects of who I am. I am here to bring creative approaches and a fresh perspective to ensure we have inclusive schools.
My full platform is available on my website at gurveendhaliwal.ca. You can also connect with my campaign by following me on Facebook (gurveendhaliwal2018) or on Twitter (@gurbeans) where you can learn more about me, hear my ideas, and see photos of my cute corgi named Roy.