As Senator Leo Housakos’ guests entered Canada’s Parliament and filed through security, a Nintendo DS set off the metal detector.
Not an item you’d expect a guest of the senator to be carrying around? Think again.
Following the launch of the Senators in Schools program — a new initiative that has senators visit schools in their home provinces to explain how Parliament works — senators thought it equally important to invite elementary and middle school students to the Senate.
After all, where better to learn about Parliament than in the Red Chamber itself?
So on May 17, 2017, Senator Housakos hosted Grade 6 students from Montreal’s Socrates-Demosthenes school, which caters largely to the Greek community in that city.
As a Montrealer of Greek heritage himself, the senator welcomed students into Parliament — for many, their first visit — and in the language they likely heard last at their dinner tables.
The connection to home wasn’t lost on the students.
“It was really cool getting to meet Senator Housakos. He’s a Habs fan, like me too,” said Avyeris.
But while most came to the Senate not knowing what it was, many left wanting to join it.
“Everyone can give their opinion here because they’re actually looking to make agreements — it’s not like kids fighting at school,” said Christopher.
Students got the chance to learn about the job, the building and its traditions, as Senator Housakos led students through a new Senate activity booklet, hot off the press.
“It’s a first-time experience for them, and even the teachers didn’t know all the answers to the quiz book,” said Georgia Tsakalis, the school’s principal.
“When they’re back in their classroom tomorrow, they’re definitely going to be able to talk more deeply about Canada’s Parliament.”
The visit combined education with inspiration.
Referring to a portrait of King George VI hanging in the Senate foyer, Senator Housakos told the students about the monarch’s struggle with stammering.
“If he could overcome his personal challenges and lead his country through a world war, then you too can do anything you set your mind to,” Senator Housakos said.
He emphasized that the Senate belongs to all Canadians.
“This is your place, I work for you,” Senator Housakos told the students. “So just give me a call if you’ve got a problem!”
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