Students at Royal Bay Secondary are painting over one of their school’s crosswalks with a pride flag to encourage diversity and inclusivity.
“I would like to see stuff like this if I were coming to a new school,” said Grade 12 student Oskar Wood, who is spearheading the initiative along with others in the school’s gender and sexuality association.
The project has been years in the making and it all began when Wood first stepped into the school four years ago. The transition from middle school to high school is difficult for everyone, he explained, but there was an additional layer of uncertainty for him.
“When I was in Grade 8 on my tour of Royal Bay, as a queer young man, I didn’t feel representation within Royal Bay,” he said. “I was scared to be who I was in this big new school when life is crazy.”
Wood said he eventually learned the students and staff were accepting and he could be his true self around them.
Four years later, Wood wants to make sure no other student feels the way he did when he first walked through the doors.
“I was like, a crosswalk right at the front entrance just to promote and cultivate that culture of welcomeness, openness and just allowing people to show their true colours, as cheesy as it sounds,” Wood said.
He reached out to the teacher leader of the school’s gender and sexuality association and ran the idea by her.
“I was super excited,” said Danielle Huculak, who also teaches career education and social studies at Royal Bay. “[But] you never know what’s going to fly and there’s always hurdles…that’s immediately what I [thought of].”
It turned out the Sooke School District and school admin were supportive of the idea and the parent advisory council even covered the cost of the project.
“It’s hopefully going to be the start of something more,” Huculak said, noting it’s the first pride flag crosswalk in the district. “I know that there are other schools that want this on their school sites and so I’m hoping that this is not the only one.”
She said the crosswalk will be re-painted and maintained by future students as often as needed, whether that’s once a year or once every two years.
“As it fades and gets worn down a little bit, we have a new group of students that maybe have other ideas of what they want to do with this initiative and ways to kind of revitalize it and bring it to life in the school,” Huculak said.
For Wood, the crosswalk is there so when students step into school on that first day, they know they’re welcome.
“It’s not just a token,” he said. “It’s a glimmer of hope.”