Island welcomes BC student shunned by exchange program

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Brooklyn Mavis says she is happy to finally make it to Prince Edward Island, but still wishes she could have come to the Island with her friends last month.

Brooklyn Mavis, left, and her mother Melanie Mavis, walk with Paul Gauthier, Parkdale Sherwood Lions as they head to a reception at City Hall Wednesday. Following them is Jessica Todourk, friend, and Jodi Tucker, child advocate.

The 15 year old from British Columbia arrived in P. E. I. Wednesday as part of a community-fundraised effort to bring her to the Island after she was disallowed from taking part in a Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada ( SEVEC) class trip to the Island in May.

“I wanted to go on a plane with my friends, I wanted to go to the beaches with my friends,” she said Wednesday.

“It’s not the same. I’m not here with all my friends. It’ll just not be the same.”

Mavis’s exchange trip to P. E. I. was cancelled after she suffered a complex seizure during an outing with Island students on their part of the exchange in B. C. in April.

Mavis, who has autism and epilepsy, said at that time she felt harassed and discriminated by P. E. I.’ s English Language School Board in the negotiations over the trip that followed her seizure.

In the end, her classmates came to P. E. I. without her.

But now, Mavis will have a chance to tour around the Island with her mother.

Local community groups and the City of Charlottetown organized a fundraising effort to bring her to the province.

Paul Gauthier of the Parkdale Sherwood Lion’s Club, said when they heard Mavis’ story in April, they felt they needed make her dream to come to the Island a reality.

“Her dream was to come to P. E. I. and it wasn’t going to be able to happen, and we wanted to be able to fulfil that dream.”

Local businesses donated gift certificates for dining and entertainment, a rental car and their hotel were also paid for a week of vacation in P. E. I.

The Lion’s club raised $ 3,000 for the plane tickets for Mavis and her mother, as well as the family’s advocate, Jodi Tucker, and her daughter.

While they are thrilled Mavis was given the opportunity to come to P. E. I. under such welcoming circumstances, Tucker says the family’s concerns are far from resolved.

“This is systemic discrimination, so what needs to happen is change, to help people understand what accountability is and inclusion is,” Tucker said.

“So we can right a wrong in terms of helping Brooklyn have an experience that she should have had in the first place.”

Mavis, her mother and Tucker will be requesting a meeting with the school board and with Education Minister Alan McIsaac while they are in P. E. I. in the hopes of addressing their concerns over Mavis’ allegations of discrimination and bullying.

“It would really be a lost opportunity if we weren’t able to sit in the same room with them, however, I can’t predict whether or not they will accept an invitation to meet,” Tucker said.

Regardless, she said she is happy to see Islanders have embraced Mavis’s story and rallied to make her trip to P. E. I. not only a reality, but also a really positive experience.

“I am absolutely stunned at the kind of support that we’ve received here and amount of people who recognize and understand what needed to happen,” Tucker said.

The City of Charlottetown held a welcoming reception for Mavis and her mother, Melanie Bowen, Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.

Bowen said she has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she and her daughter have received from Islanders.

“There’s not enough days for all of the people that really wanted to see Brooklyn or do something for her,” Bowen said.

“(They) have proven the true spirit of P. E. I. and we’re very pleased to meet everybody that has come out to support Brooklyn. It’s really been overwhelming.”

Organizations: P. E., Society for Educational Visits, B. C English Language School Board P.E.I. school board

Geographic location: British Columbia, Canada, Charlottetown Brooklyn Parkdale Sherwood Lion

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