Vancouver School Board names first student trustee

At 16, Nick Milum is keen to spend his evenings in meetings. He’s the Vancouver School Board’s first student trustee.

“I like the fact that I have a say in my education other than just sitting in my classroom and listening to my teacher,” Milum said. “The action of going to meetings, sure it’s not the most exciting thing for a teenager but it’s something that has to be done and I’m willing to do it and I do want to do it because I’m able to voice my opinion in a way that’s heard.”

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Milum was the only member of the Vancouver District Student Council who ran for the position. The Grade 11 student lives near Tupper secondary but attends the accelerated “Challenge” program at Eric Hamber that will allow him to complete university courses in Grade 12. He represented students on the board’s education and student services committee last year.

“The trustees on [the education and students services] committee and all the other committees do really appreciate the voice of students,” Milum said. “And it’s partly due to them, for sure, that we have this pilot project for this year.”

The student trustee can’t vote, attend in camera meetings or move motions. But the student can suggest motions to be moved. He is expected to be sworn in at the Oct. 15 school board meeting.

The position is Vancouver’s first such trial for 2013-14. The B.C. School Trustees Association narrowly voted at its annual general meeting last April against lobbying the provincial government to change the B.C. School Act to allow student trustee participation in board activities.

The government of Ontario mandated in 1998 that each district must have one to three student trustees. The votes of student trustees are recorded but not counted, and student trustees can attend in camera meetings except those related to personnel. In New Brunswick, student trustee votes are counted but teen trustees can’t attend in camera meetings, according to trustee and board vice chair Mike Lombardi.

Lombardi says Ontario student trustees have helped develop policy about the use of technology in classrooms, cyber bullying, curriculum and promoted studies on better teaching and learning strategies.

Milum is interested in teachers moving away from lecturing while better integrating technology into their instruction and involving students in more hands-on experiences out of the classroom.

He spearheaded a Passport to Play day at his school last May. “We had over 200 cognitively and physically disabled students come and it was an amazing day because they got to experience sport in so many different ways,” the Grade 11 student said. “That was definitely my proudest moment.”

Milum plays soccer, baseball, basketball, volleyball, golfs and swims. “Sport is a really big motivator for me and so I wanted to be able to give that opportunity to as many kids as possible, especially to the kids who don’t have that opportunity,” he said.  

Milum will be given access to reports and training sessions provided to board members. “There’s some sort of media training that trustees go through so that they know what they can talk about and what they can’t talk about and so that’s something that I have to go through for this position,” Milum said.

Pending board approval, the student trustee will receive a $2,400 honorarium for his services. Ontario gives its student trustees $2,500.

(This story has been edited since it was first posted.)

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