A former Toronto principal with vast experience in leadership positions with the Ministry of Education and the Ontario Principals’ Council has been appointed as Executive Director for Team Unbreakable.
Laura Somerville brings a wealth of public education experience to her role. Through the Ontario Principals’ Council, she is project lead for an initiative examining cyber-bullying and cyber-violence. Laura has also worked in several countries on behalf of the International School Leadership program, a subsidiary of OPC, to promote strong educational leaders at the school and system level.
Laura was approached to join Team Unbreakable’s Board of Directors in 2018 to provide her perspective on school operations. “I was impressed by the diverse group of strong board members and liked that the Team Unbreakable program has a research-based model,” she says.”
Adjusting the program so that Team Unbreakable learning modules were more aligned to the Ontario Ministry of Education Health and Physical Education Curriculum provided added value to their own program, she says. “Strong mental health and physical education has an important role to play in supporting student success and well-being,” Laura says. “We can be the partner that provides value added programing to complement the good work that schools are already doing.”
Moving forward, Team Unbreakable can continue to provide more in-depth programs and align actions to goals to promote better mental health of students, she says. “We have to have programs that resonate with students and that are more family centric as compared to being only school centric. It’s important to listen to the students through surveys, advisory groups and anecdotal feedback,” she says.
The charity has recently conducted a virtual 5K run which was successful in raising $16,000. “We were very pleased with recent fundraising, but the reality is we have no government funding and support by individuals and corporate sponsors is vital to our future.”
Some new examples of enhancements that Team Unbreakable may consider are modules on the impact of social media on teens, providing a portal or app for parents with resources, and tip sheets. In the age of digital, a training log app may also be in the works for the future. Measurement of the programs goals and providing statistically-based research will continue to be a focus, Laura says.
Now, more than ever with COVID-19, students are isolated physically, emotionally, and socially and it is especially tough for young teens and adolescents. With the need for programs that address the mental health issues of our youth, Team Unbreakable has an easily accessible program that is already on-line and can be adaptable to whatever teaching environments are approved by the Ministry, Laura says. Sport teams, community groups and universities may be areas for growth in the future as well.
Laura was born in St. Catharines and is married to George Rowell who is also a former Principal. They have a daughter, son in law and two grandchildren. In her spare time, you’ll find her busy renovating or involved in music activities of all kinds.