Samantha Estoesta, WRDSB trustee candidate

Samantha Estoesta, Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) trustee candidate for Kitchener, is passionate about education and equity. If elected to be a Trustee for the WRDSB, Samantha will tirelessly work to ensure that every student in Waterloo Region is supported and given the tools that they need.


Samantha-Estoesta-Profile_image_with_WM_logo.pngWhy did you decide to run?

Over the last ten years, I have consistently been involved in initiatives, projects, programs and organizations that aim to better the lives of students, not only in Waterloo Region but across the country. After being chosen as one of ten women to receive the Province of Ontario’s Leading Women, Building Communities award for the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo in 2018, I knew it was time to use the skills that I’ve gained from my experience in educational institutions, advocacy and equity roles to support students in the Waterloo Region. As a woman of colour, who is the child of an immigrant, with a variety of invisible and visible marginalizations, I am passionate about equity in education. If elected to be a Trustee for the Waterloo Region District School Board, I promise to tirelessly work to ensure that every student in Waterloo Region is supported and given the tools that they need to have a positive and successful educational journey.

What is your favourite thing to do in your community?

When I'm not shovelling as many pupusas (an El Salvadorean bean and cheese filled massa pancake) in my mouth as humanly possible or enjoying the numerous festivals and events held in the downtown core, I honestly just love walking around Kitchener's core and participating/helping out at community events (that are often political or diversity-centred).

Tell us about the greatest challenges your community faces?

As someone who's running for school board, I'll focus on educational issues through an intersectional lens for the remaining questions. There is a disparity in educational experiences based on the location and the demographics of a community. Newer schools in middle to upper-class neighbourhoods have fireplaces in their libraries while there are rats in the portables of schools in the core.

Schools in certain neighbourhoods have extensive extracurriculars, clubs, and technology groups while others are barely able to maintain reasonable temperatures in classrooms. You shouldn't have to live in a certain community to have a good education. Every single student, no matter their family's financial situation nor the neighbourhood they live in, should be denied a full and complete education. We need to address these pockets of inequality - moreover, we need to make sure that these forgotten students are given the same opportunities as their fellow students in Waterloo Region.

What would you do to improve women's health in your community?

We know that students are often teachers to their guardians, especially in new-to-Canada communities and those with guardians who have English as their second language, inclusive of navigating around the health care system. I know this from the stories that my mother, a first generation Canadian, told me of teaching both of her parents English while completing her homework at night and being the medical system translator to both of them right up until their deaths. One of the key ways that we can focus on women's (and community) health through schools is inviting parents and guardians to sessions (with translated materials, ASL, and other accessibility aids) that explain the types of vaccinations, nutrition for learning, and other health services available to their children.

We can also work with teachers to ensure that guardians are given educational aids on health care available to them and their children. We can also work with schools to ensure that when students are getting flu shots, etc. that their guardians are invited to get the same shots and other medical checkups. Additionally, we know that guardians are often the ones who restrict their diets when there isn't enough food in their kitchens to feed everyone, prioritizing their children. By creating accessible nutrition for learning and other food programs in schools for those who are unable to secure three well-balanced meals a day, we can improve women's health by allowing them not to worry about the food their children are getting at lunch and focus on feeding themselves. We can also work with groups like the Waterloo Region Food Bank to create pick up locations by schools that have high demographics of families with precarious food security.

What would you do to improve women's economic security in your community?

As stated above, we know that students are often teachers to their guardians, especially in new-to-Canada communities and those with guardians who have English as their second language; study after study shows that those most needing this educational support from their children are mothers without economic security. We need to consider this family dynamic and create programming that supports not only the student but their guardians.

I am proud to live right around the corner from Waterloo Region District School Board's Welcome Centre, which welcomes newcomer families to our community in a caring and professional manner. Their assessment service determines the best programming for newcomer students. This is great for new-to-Canada families but does not address the needs of all women experiencing precarious economic security. WRDSB should actively looks for ways to create and include women without economic security in meaningful and skill-sharing activities that lead to job security, be it volunteer opportunities in their schools, in ESL programs with their children, or hands-on technology workshops that give upper year students the ability to learn facilitation skills.

What would you do to improve women's safety in your community?

We know that when we invest in our communities and our children, we can improve the well-being and safety of all community members, especially women. Some of our schools in the neighbourhoods needing the most community investment are not prioritized, both in programming and maintenance. My attention is on these schools and I plan on calling on WRDSB to focus on ensuring that we prioritize them, and their communities. Additionally, we know that women experiencing domestic violence and unsafe living conditions are purposely segregated from services that could support them. These women, often forced to stay home as caregivers, might only have unsupervised access to their community when they pick up and drop off children at school.

By working with educators and staff to not just recognize the signs of abuse in their students but in their caregivers, along with working with social workers, case workers and women's support centres in the Region on ways of creating methods of communication, assessment, and support in schools, we can give women experiencing domestic violence the support they need. While the 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum has been repealed, we can work to support educators who use their lesson plans to give students the skills to recognize abuse and, more importantly, the information they need to seek help - not just for them but for the women experiencing violence in their lives. This can only be done by fiercely supporting the 2015 Curriculum and supporting our educators as they find ways to share valuable information on abuse and safety with their students.

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