As students learn to think critically about their own and the larger world, they become more attuned to notions of fairness and justice. They hone their ability to recognize situations or incidents involving injustice, such as exclusion or an abuse of power.
This essential element of character development, when founded upon a culture of empowerment, may instil in students a conscious determination to respect and include others. School communities in which students readily take action to interrupt perceived injustice or exclusion indicate a culture that facilitates youth empowerment.
First Nations, Métis and Inuit students who feel comfortable acting as advocates for themselves, for their peers or for their families and communities, standing up against injustice directed at their own cultures, are also demonstrating feelings of empowerment. When these students self-identify and are proud of their culture and their distinctness from their peers, this is a major indicator that they are feeling safe, accepted and empowered.
The choice to self-identify may be a struggle for students who are members of other marginalized social groups as well; for example, students who identify as LGBTQ or those who are newcomers or from a racialized ethnocultural group or religion.
In all cases, students who have experienced inequity and who are able to openly express their identities are expressing their own sense of personal power and agency. Schools can choose to embrace such expressions, knowing that this indicates that their adult members are offering space for self-expression and leadership, and are successfully building trust, creating a sense of belonging and offering effective support.