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Guelph organizations provide learning opportunities for students affected by strike

'It's very Guelph,' said chamber of commerce president Shakiba Shayani of having students visit during strike days
Students Emma, Karolina and Octavia accompany Mayor Cam Guthrie to visit MP Lloyd Longfield's office. Twitter photo

While the province and the teachers' unions continue to negotiate at the bargaining table, the strike did not stop some Guelph students from learning.

During Tuesday's one-day strike on Tuesday where all Wellington Catholic School Board schools were closed, local organizations opened their doors to encourage secondary students to visit their offices to provide opportunities for students to learn about their respectful fields.

It started with Mayor Cam Guthrie, who tweeted his offer for students in Guelph to spend some time with him at city hall to learn how the city works, even offering to buy them lunch.

Seeing this, many local businesses began to follow suit with the Guelph Nighthawks, the Chamber of Commerce and the PIN Network Guelph-Wellington.

Guthrie said with the strike being a kitchen table conversation at this point, it's a natural question for him to ask his own two high school children what they’re doing during the strike.

“It got me thinking, 'you know what, if it is a strike day, and the kids can't be in school, maybe there’s a different type of learning opportunity that some students might be interested in,'” said Guthrie.   

So he extended an invitation to all Guelph students to come to city hall and selected three students from St. James Catholic High School and Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School to spend the day with. 

The students shadowed Guthrie, joined his meetings and were introduced to various departments in city hall.

They also visited the Guelph Chamber of Commerce with Guthrie and met with MP Lloyd Longfield to learn about projects the city and the federal government are working on together. 

Guthrie said Wimpy’s Diner was kind enough to give the students a free meal because they thought it was a great idea that they spent the day learning despite the strike. 

The team then went to the waste innovation facility to learn about how waste trucks work and how the organics facility works in order to understand food sorting from both a financial and environmental point of view. 

“That was interesting because I asked them if they knew that and they didn’t. So now they’re environmental waste ambassadors I call them,” said Guthrie. 

The team then proceeded to the transit facility to meet the management team and learn about the new technologies that have been added to the buses. 

Guthrie said the students were able to give him feedback on everything they learned in the city.

“I learned what they like, what they want more of, we talked about safety in the city, and transit, and jobs,” said Guthrie. 

“It wasn’t just them learning, I found that I learned just as much too.”

Chamber of Commerce president Shakiba Shayani said when the mayor reached out to her to provide a tour of the Chamber of Commerce, she wanted to make sure she carved out the time.

As a former Guelph student herself she says she understands the importance of learning about different organizations in the community and the impact it can have on future aspirations. 

“It was a real treat to have them in the office,” said Shayani who discussed the Chamber of Commerce’s history, its art and its role as a leading voice in business in the community with the students.

She said Guthrie gave some great examples of how the city and council engage with the chamber, took questions from the students and discussed the importance of young people getting involved in the community in order to turn a tricky situation in time into a positive experience. 

“It's very Guelph. We do that for each other. Building relationships across different organizations and businesses is important,” said Shayani.