Character causing change: taking a stand in Pickering

One student's will to make a small improvement

Kate was in Grade 4 when she wrote The Letter to the headmaster. She was concerned, she said, about a matter in which the school was not conforming to its values.

Values are a serious matter at Pickering College. Although the school is non-denominational, every day starts with a Quaker-style "meeting" in the tradition of the school's 1842 founders when staff and students can speak out. The head, Peter Sturrup, had the nine-year-old in for a meeting. And then another. By the end of the year, she had convinced him to change school policy and allow junior girls to wear pants to school (except on Thursdays, when they go back to tunics). Her argument: Tunics were too cumbersome and hot for girls playing soccer at recess and, besides, if junior boys and older girls at the coed school could wear pants, why not the junior girls?

"He was very open-minded," says Kate, 12, who, in spite of appearing shy, is described by a staff member as "humble, but a real leader."

"I thought it was fantastic," says Sturrup of the letter. "It was exactly what we teach our children: to stand up for what they believe in."

The rule change may have paid off: With Kate playing at mid-field, the junior girls soccer team came second in a private schools' tournament this year.

—Frank Jones
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