Julie Bridgen is a Trustee Candidate for the Grand Erie District School Board. Julie shares, "As a Grand Erie School Board Trustee my goal will be to assist the board to develop and shape the next generation of learners in Brantford."
Why did you decide to run?
I decided to run for Trustee in my area now because the timing allowed for it. My daughter is now out of high school and my son has only one year left. The school system is not barrier-free for students with autism and advocacy has been a big part of my life. My son's experience, and mine as his advocate, is not isolated. The lack of diversity and inclusion is a detriment to Brantford and continues to be all these years later. In 15 years of battling to ensure that my son's rights were considered, I found myself experiencing misogyny during Board and school meetings relative to my familial status. As a single mom, the judgement was palpable and worse after my sexual orientation was discovered. As a person that identifies as Pansexual, I want to help students who feel marginalized, have safe places, supports and to ensure they are able to achieve their goals and dreams.
After all these years, I feel compelled to help young families and those students who are mischaracterized, marginalized and judged. I want to help move the dial for education in Brantford by being accessible to parents and students and listening to them for suggestions for policy development.
What is your favourite thing to do in your community?
There are beautiful trails along the Grand River in Brantford and we spend a lot of time on them with our dogs. I have been in Brantford now for 7 years and it has grown. My son is known in the community for his friendly nature and always knows someone putting a smile on their face wherever we go. I started Hapkido martial arts about 6 months ago as it has always been a goal.
Tell us about the greatest challenges your community faces?
As a community, Brantford is facing a wide range of serious social concerns which together increase risks of homelessness. As a Trustee, I would pay particular attention to transition plans for students with developmental disabilities who are having difficulty with the eligibility process for funding and services. It is not acceptable that a student would find themselves at risk for homelessness because of error in process or potential misunderstanding of their needs.
What would you do to improve women's health in your community
Recently the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reported a rise in psychological distress for Students in Grades 7 to 12 since it was first monitored in 2013. As a Trustee, I would ensure that there is a focus on student mental health and that community supports are prioritized ensuring all students have access to information and resources.
"Female students are more than twice as likely as males to report elevated stress, poor mental health, seeking mental health counselling, thoughts of suicide, and being prescribed medication for anxiety or depression," says Dr. Hayley Hamilton, Senior Scientist in CAMH's Institute for Mental Health Policy"
It is of particular importance that teachers and Educational Assistants have required training that helps identify female students who are at risk in ways that make students may not present.
What would you do to improve women's economic security in your area?
I believe that young girls from middle school to high school benefit from seeing female role models from every industry as CEO, CFO, CISO, CXO in every level of business and to see female entrepeneurs from their community. STEM role models in particular exist in our community and in nearby communities. Young girls and young women are influenced positively by seeing first hand that their are female pioneers of today's innovative technology. As a Trustee, I would like to see Brantford initiatives with the public schools engaging in strategic programs that teach coding skills and cybersecurity concepts to all students paying attention to enrollment of female students. Building up female capacity in the STEM sector in Brantford would help them obtain economic foundation and future skills that will be lucrative and meaningful to their economic prosperity and safety nets.
What would you do to improve women's safety in your community?
School Boards and schools should not only have policies to ensure lockdown practices for external threats. Part of the curriculum should be devoted to personal female safety starting in middle school and then to high school designed for the needs of today's students. Topics including peer pressure, shakedowns, harassment, internet safety, cyberbullying, road rage and step by step techniques on how to respond to strangers at each age. School curriculum that addresses body autonomy, gender-based violence and gender and sexual diversity lead to students understanding the meaning of consent and that violence, sexual, physical and emotional and are never ok. Personal Safety and information about Consent taught at school empowers students in the community and then in the workplace. But it has to actually be taught to do that.
How can supporter help your campaign?
A volunteer can reach me through www.juliebridgen.com and contact me at 519-774-0146. I'm grateful for the support!