Designer: Isabella Duncanson
July 22, 2020

Student Project Spotlight: Class of COVID Canada

In 250-300 words, how would you describe your project? What does it aim to accomplish? Who’s the targeted audience? 

At the very heart of this project, we wanted to hear from youth and amplify their voices. We chose to focus our project on students because the experience they’re facing of isolation and abrupt changes in their education during the pandemic was something that we could intimately relate to. Taking a Semester in Dialogue gave us the opportunity to connect with other youth who are going through the same traumas as us, and our experiences resonated with each other. We wanted to provide that same comfort to other students. 

We set out with a plan to engage youth, to survey them for recommendations on how we can improve their lives during COVID-19. We asked them questions about their education, their mental health, and their lives during the pandemic and we ended up with over 200 answers that guided the next phase of our work, the Together Tomorrow Project. 

Additionally to our survey, we believe in reciprocity and it was important to us to create a space for our youth respondents to share their stories with each other. Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York project, we also incorporated an anonymous story submission at the end of our survey because we realized how powerful of a tool storytelling can be. We wanted to hear the unique experiences of our respondents, and with their consent, these stories were all posted to our Instagram page. This became a public space for youth to connect with each other, read the stories of their peers, and recognize that they aren’t as alone as they think they are. 

How did the project come together? What inspired the idea?

This project was born out of our final assignment for Semester in Dialogue. We were challenged to connect with youth and learn how COVID-19 has impacted the socio-economics of youth in Canada. When we were brainstorming at the beginning of this semester, we kept coming back to the idea of a hallway, a place where you could bump into friends, meet new people, and just relate with the feeling of being in school together. With schools moving from physical classrooms to online platforms, we wanted to explore how students were adjusting to the transition, and create a space where youth could share their experiences with each other and recognize that they are not alone. We were inspired by Humans of New York and the power of storytelling to create the story aspect of Class of COVID Canada. It became a place where youth shared their stories of COVID and their struggles with school, mental health, and this pandemic.

What comes next? Is there stewardship or next steps laid out for the future of the project?

One of the most powerful parts of CoCC were the voices that emerged from youth across Canada. We learned that youth need a space to have their voices and opinions heard. The Together Tomorrow Project is a social multimedia innovation that fills the need for a space for youth to share voices that will be amplified into decision making processes. With a multitude of respondents stating that they desired to be better supported by being considered in the decisions that affect their wellbeing and education, the Together Tomorrow Project does just that. The Together Tomorrow Project is a multifaceted approach to online engagement for youth. The landing page of the website has three portals that describe the type of content that will be focused on. Your Community. Your Voice. Your Health.

The “Your Community” facet of the site will run workshops and online live events that help curate online communities during a time of social and physical distancing For example, spotlighting youth artists and musicians, and cultivating online community space by offering workshops on topics such as digital literacy, anti-racism, environmentalism, and coding. The “Your Voice” section will provide an online forum space that acts as a town hall and will be a living forum for stories from youth about a variety of topics. Having the ability to call for stories on the basis of a variety of different topics allows youth to have a voice in decision making processes. We will introduce a variety of topics for youth to contribute their opinions on, while providing supplementary education and a safe space. We will reciprocate by compiling their opinions to advocate their unified voice to decision makers. Lastly, “Your Health” section will focus on providing a linktree of a landing page for a living document of any mental health support for youth. While we are aware of many resources that are available for youth, there is a lack of knowledge on where to find them. We aim to become a trustworthy source for youth to seek resources, and we wish to help spread information on any local support for collective traumatic experiences, for example, Black counsellors and psychiatrists of Vancouver offering free consultation for Black members of the community. This will become youths’ one stop for online mental health resources.

What’s one big takeaway your team will take away from the Semester experience?

  • How this pandemic can feel really isolating, but when you begin to share stories and experiences with others, you don’t feel as alone.
  • Being engaged is more than just participating in politics through voting or classic engagement processes, being engaged means being an active member of a community, with a voice that deserves to be heard. 
  • Social media can act as a means for social change.
  • Dialogue proves to be an effective way of learning through listening and this concept can translate into wider spheres (this concept was used as the basis of our project).

Class of COVID Canada is a group project dreamed up between six of SFU’s Semester in Democracy students from the Summer 2020 Semester in Dialogue class. Learn more about their project on their website.

Media Appearances

  • Project team member, Claire Patterson, joined Breakfast Television on June 16th for a Radio Interview discussing the project survey and some of the submissions from students across Canada. Watch the interview here

  • SFU News reports on the accomplishments of students, faculty and staff. The Class of COVID project was featured in their very own SFU News Story. Watch the video here!

Class of COVID Project Team Members

Maiya Chan

Maiya is a fifth year Resource and Environmental Management major, with a minor in Indigenous Studies. She’s very interested in Indigenous rights, sustainability, storytelling, and working with youth. Her studies in university have sparked a passion for reconciliation and education on Indigenous issues in Canada, and this led her to Semester in Dialogue 2020. During March, Maiya spent 2 weeks self-isolating in her bedroom after returning home from working in Ontario. Now out of self-isolation, she’s been spending her time hiking, pursuing photography, letter writing, and watching endless amounts of Netflix. 

Amy Kim

Amy is a fifth year Philosophy major in the concentration of Law and Philosophy. Her passion is very much in the realm of human rights and ethical theory. As the current world issues unfold, she finds more need to be involved and become proactive. To learn more about how, she joined the Semester in Dialogue Summer 2020 program. Through the program, with her team, she wishes to understand further on how we can co-exist with the pandemic. During her down time, she is on her Nintendo switch lite, playing Animal Crossing New Horizons or Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Muhammad Mughees Abid

Mughees is a Political Science student in his fourth year at SFU. Passionate about politics, he was elected as the Vice President of Academics for Society of Arts and Social Sciences and as the Political Science Student Union representative. Indulging in political rallies and working for human rights is some of the things he likes to do. He is also interested in international law and wants to work for the International Criminal Court. Outside of the political world, he loves long car rides and exploring new landscapes. The COVID-19 has made him more appreciative of the opportunities that he has of exploring the beauty of nature and also has him watching an unusual amount of television.

Claire Patterson

Claire is a fourth year Communication and Dialogue student at SFU. Her passion for travelling led her to pursue a semester studying Communication Science at University of Amsterdam and then move to Barcelona to pursue a co-op teaching English. Time abroad sparked a very keen interest in digital literacy, democracy, civic engagement and environmentalism. She is looking for ways that communication can make these topics accessible to large audiences. During her down time, she likes swimming in the ocean off the coast of Vancouver Island and patiently waiting for the day she will swim with a pod of whales. 

Michael Song

Michael is a fourth year Sociology student at SFU. He has passion in social movements, human rights, cognitive awareness, and environmental sustainability. While the world is under environmental crisis and human rights problems, he wishes to become more involved in politics or activism and bring positive changes to the social space.  Recently, during social distancing, he has been spending a lot of time reading novels, watching YouTube, and playing League of Legends.

Jozsef Varga

Jozsef is a fourth year Political Science student at SFU. He’s passionate about Canadian politics, human rights, international law and intercultural awareness. Jozsef, along with his teammates, worked on the Class of COVID Canada survey to gauge the attitudes of Canadian youth about the government’s response to the current pandemic, and to propose policies to the government to help youth. When Jozsef isn’t in class, you can find him enjoying the beautiful nature of British Columbia, cycling, and watching unhealthy amounts of television.