Sa-Hali secondary dubbed first UNESCO member high school in B.C.
What started as a small, four-person extracurricular group has grown to a 20-person club that has earned Sa-Hali secondary international status as an UNESCO-designated school.
“It’s amazing because I’ve been part of this since Grade 8,” said Grade 12 student Amanda To, a member of Sa-Hali’s Global Citizens Club.
The extracurricular group’s projects and initiatives over the last six years has made Sa-Hali secondary a full-time member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) associated schools network (ASPnet) — the only high school in B.C. with the designation and one of just 87 schools across Canada to claim such status.
Global Citizens' work in earning the designation included collaborating with other schools across Canada to produce two white papers on the future of water and single-use plastics, which were sent to the Canadian Senate. The group has also sent letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding environmental initiatives and conducts an annual carbon challenge in which students try to find more sustainable ways to travel to and from school.
About 100 people gathered on the front lawn in front of the high school on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the designation by raising the UNESCO flag.
Sa-Hali secondary teacher librarian and Global Citizens Club co-ordinator Cecile McVittie told KTW the journey toward full membership began five years ago when she completed an application to have Sa-Hali secondary become a UNESCO candidate school.
After several years of building a body of work similar to what other member schools were doing, McVittie said, the high school was eligible to apply for full membership in the network.
She said full membership gives the club more opportunities to participate in UNESCO youth activities and partner with international schools, rather than collaborating solely at the provincial or national level.
“An example of this would be our recent Amsterdam exchange with an UNESCO ASPnet school in Amsterdam,” McVittie said.
Members of the group recently returned from a week-long trip to the capital of the Netherlands, where representatives from each school made presentations on how their respective countries deal with water issues or how they build peaceful, sustainable societies.
Sa-Hali hosted the Dutch school in April.
The Global Citizens Club is now planning to focus on the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals by hosting an exposition at some point during the school year, setting up pavilions in classrooms to showcase its work on each goal.
The UNESCO Associated Schools Network has 11,500 members in more than 180 countries. Membership is open to public or private educational institutions that provide pre-primary, primary, secondary, technical or vocational education, or teacher training, in formal or non-formal settings. ASPnet links schools around the world with the goal of contributing to peace and security in the world.
Membership in ASPnet based on a firm commitment by the school leadership and community to promote the ideals and values of UNESCO by reinforcing the humanistic, ethical, cultural and international dimensions of education.