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Durham District School Board
Ignite Learning
The Power of Words
Students from R.H. Cornish Public School learn that their voice matters to the Prime Minister.

Grade 8 R.H. Cornish PS students Sophie G. and Maddy G. competed in a spoken word event at their Port Perry school on May 15th. The event was organized by the students' gifted program teacher Dale Mar. Sophie and Maddy would never have thought that participating in the competition could lead to a visit with the Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. Little did they know that Whitby MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes was in the audience cheering on her son, who attends Jack Miner PS.

She was very impressed by their performances and afterward she casually said, 'I think the Prime Minister should read your poems. I think I'm going to share them with him'. At the time Mar, Sophie and Maddy thought she was joking because they didn't know that Caesar-Chavannes is the MP for Whitby. But, she was very serious and asked for parental permission to send the poems to Ottawa. Maddy's poem was about society's unrealistic view of perfection and Sophie did a play on the national anthem and how Indigenous people probably relate to it.

"Having MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes being in the audience and telling us afterward how much she loved our poems and how she wished to gift us the opportunity of having our poems be sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau completely astounded me," Sophie expressed. "It reminded me that you never know who might be listening and who might be willing to spread your message."

Mar says when people hear the students share their stories on a spoken voice platform, they are surprised at their depth. The junior students wrote about wonder and the intermediates wrote about equity and justice.

"They have this amazing gift to see the big picture and the small picture at the same time," explains Mar. "The really powerful thing about this event is that the kids are really able to have an authentic voice, and talk about issues that are important to them."

Meeting the PM

MP Caesar-Chavannes initially wanted the Prime Minister to send the girls a video response to their poems. But when she heard that they were coming to Ottawa for the Grade 8 grad trip in June, she surprised them with a spontaneous visit with the Prime Minister on Parliament Hill.

Mar says that she was very impressed with Prime Minister Trudeau, because he was great with Maddy and Sophie. She says, "He was very specific with each of them, which was so lovely." As he asked the girls questions about their poems and cared about their responses. It was the highlight of the trip. 

"Having the Prime Minister himself read what you've written and performed for people, and care about it. It really gives me more courage to share my voice," Maddy exclaimed. "And maybe speak up and take an active role against all of the injustices that have been happening in the world, and try and empower other people to share their voices as well."  

Photo 1 – (Front, L-R) Dale Mar and her students Sophie and Maddy on Parliament Hill with Whitby MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (back).
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Photo 2 - Sophie (L) and Maddy (R) from R.H. Cornish PS, meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau through sharing their powerful voices at the school’s spoken word competition. 

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