SHINE Club aims to inspire and support BIPOC students in ALCDSB

Image via V. Opelheia Rigault’s website.

The Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB) has announced it is pleased to partner with and learn from V. Ophelia Rigault, a Resiliency Leadership Specialist, to create the SHINE Club in five ALCDSB schools.

According to a release from the school board, the SHINE Club aims to inspire and support racialized and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) students, to develop a positive racial sense of self and identify, and build empowerment and resiliency skills so that students can SHINE. The school board shared the following details on the club and its objectives:

What does SHINE stand for?

  • Self-love: Positive self-actualization. How are we fearfully and wonderfully made?
    What makes each of us unique and amazing?
  • Hope: Hope helps us support each other through difficult times.
    How can we use hope to strengthen our identity in our community now and in the future?
  • Inclusion & Identity: Sense of pride in celebrating our unique culture.
    How can we learn more about ourselves and each other to celebrate all identities in our schools and the world?
  • Neighbourhood: Community building through connections. 
    How can we connect with others in the school who may have a shared lived experience?
  • Empowerment: Resiliency skills development.
    How can we build skills so we are equipped to deal with any situation that arises with confidence?

The club started as a pilot last year at St. Thomas More Catholic School in Kingston and, after its success, Rigault reached out to the ALCDSB to expand the project to include more schools. ALCDSB said the SHINE Club is now in four additional schools – St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School (Kingston), Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic School (Amherstview), St. Michael Catholic School (Belleville), and St. Mary Catholic School (Trenton).

“The idea for this club started because my niece experienced something and I was equipped to support her through it, but while I was working through this situation with her, I wondered how other children are working through these things that often happen to racialized children,” Rigault expressed.

“I also recalled some of my own lived experiences coming to Canada and attending school and thought to myself there must be a way we can do more to support racialized children.”

According to the ALCDSB, Rigault began working with the school principal at St. Thomas More Catholic School to build a strong foundation and ensure students, staff, and families had a clear understanding of the purpose of the club and why it was important.

“The creation of the club was because of allyship and relationship. This process took time. Careful planning and ongoing collaboration with Sandra Fragoso as the principal was essential for the current success of the club. This model developed at St. Thomas More Catholic School was the template we used to expand the club to more schools in the ALCDSB,” Rigault said.

“The club has become a safe place to ask questions, for students to learn about themselves and others and to celebrate racial identity,” added Sarah Cassidy, a Special Assignment Teacher for the ALCDSB.

“Children have appreciated being able to talk to adults with a similar lived experience and have created new relationships within the school outside of their classroom.”

Each school community that participates in the club is unique, so who is involved varies from school to school, according to the release. The club is open to any student who identifies as Black, Indigenous or racialized and is facilitated by trained Black, Indigenous and racialized school staff members and community members. The principal of each school assists in the planning, communication, creation of the space, and providing resources to support the club, the ALCDSB noted.

In response to Kingstonist inquiries, the ALCDSB shared that the clubs meet at lunchtime at their respective schools. The board did note it is “committed to and working towards having the SC available to more students and families. For example, having a community-based SHINE Club and/or an after-school session.”

So far, the clubs are averaging 12 to 15 students in grades 1 to 5, the ALCDSB told Kingstonist in an email, also noting that club success is demonstrated as children share their experiences with other children who “look like them.” They are building connections — some students are the only racialized child in their class — and when they come to the SHINE Club they are feeling a sense of community differently, building empowerment and connection, the school board expressed. 

“One of the goals in the ALCDSB’s equity plan is to recognize that traditions and perspectives will be honoured and that intentional effort will be made to develop reciprocal relationships with families and community partners,” said Darcey French, Superintendent of Education with the ALCSDB.

“This is at the forefront of everything that we do.”

Learn more about the SHINE Club on its website: https://theshineclub.org/.

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