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The Spirit of Burnaby North: A Unique Experiment
June 24, 2022
Daniel Hong, Grade 12

Having been through five years at Burnaby North, I have seen it all: from humble beginnings of getting lost in the now-demolished language wing, to regretting taking summer school, to graduating with a group of peers that could not have been a better support group. Between were the stressful group projects, plentiful Student Government spirit weeks, and chaotic club meetings. My Burnaby North story, like many graduates of the Class of 2022, is not a unique one, but rather one with a unique lens. During the years, many of us agree that this grade has evolved. The culture is more competitive and toxified, and our people are more divided than in previous years. Gone are the days of large coalition-building of friends and community. These problems are the products of the COVID-19 pandemic and school construction. There are many strategies for reinvigorating the spirit of Burnaby North and they start with reviving trust in our students.

When the Class of 2022 was making its debut in September 2017, many students were eager to make new friends, ready to part ways from their elementary school connections. As an out-of-catchment student who didn't know anyone, I was amazed to see the level of diversity in my classes and all the new peers that I would end up meeting. Over time, however, as students started to get comfortable with their new friends, people began to forget that there were more than 300 other students to meet. The doors started closing in on us, and the worst part was that we were closing the doors on each other. With the pandemic dominating after March 2020, the outlook worsened and students barely saw each other. Fast forward several months and the quarter system in the 2020/2021 school year discouraged all socialization before, during, and after classes. All this endurance by the Class of 2022 created tension. The divisions go something like this: AP/honours/enriched class-taking students versus non-enriched class-taking students, frisbee versus non-frisbee students, romantic partners versus the singles, and the list goes on. With each faction comprising a small group of fewer than twenty people, it is hard to cross the unspoken boundaries. If a student of a given friend group chooses to speak to another group, some of that student’s closest friends will question the loyalty of that student to their group in an “us versus them” state of mind. The construction of a new Burnaby North Secondary has also affected student socialization, with a loss of student spaces, such as the South Cafeteria, to eat lunch or lounge. Another example of the stark divisions in our grade is the 2021 Student Government election. Nearly 80 students ran for only 23 positions, with each group of friends nominating their slate of candidates. School construction not only changed our grade’s identity but our school’s identity, with less attention paid to our school mascot and the honouring of our institutional history. Instead, resources are being diverted to changing who we are and rebranding our school. Surely, not all traditions can be maintained, but the amount of change we have faced in recent years is immense. It would be unsustainable to maintain any tradition in this environment.

While our school and its students have faced many adversities, it is not all doom and gloom. As another school year comes to a close, the Class of 2022’s final one, there are simple measures that you, the reader, can take to ensure that your grade does not end up like ours. Create a conversation with peers in your grade, no matter how awkward it is. It can start with looking at them in the eye as you cross paths in our long hallways. It can also mean reaching out and partnering in a group project with someone that you dislike, because creating friends out of your foes is a necessary life skill. Ensuring that the Viking remains our school mascot and that the Viking head, a beloved symbol, fiercely stands between our new buildings is another course of action. There are so many ways to reflect and ensure that we build a better school every day.

The onus is up to us, the students, to make changes to better Burnaby North. I call upon all students to be more open and accepting of each other. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer once said, “[America] is an experiment… and you know who will see whether that experiment works? It’s you, my friend.” Those words can be applied here. Burnaby North is an experiment, a prestigious one, and we must decide how we guide our experiment one year further. To promise to make Burnaby North, the school that we all love, a better place.