One Voice, One Team at ODSS is all about serving the community

December 21, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

A “blue wave” is slowly but surely sweeping through the hallways at Orangeville District Secondary School (ODSS) and principal Patrick Hamilton is hoping to see it spread even further into the local community in the new year. 

Having introduced the One Voice, One Team service group to ODSS students last spring, Mr. Hamilton, alongside faculty members Adam Vickery and Carmina Bradbury, have been busy coming up with ways for participating students to get involved in the community. With more than 160 students currently enrolled in the program, it’s safe to say it’s taken off in a big, big way.

“One Voice, One Team is all about service to the community. It encourages students to make a better ODSS, a better community and a better world,” Mr. Hamilton told the Citizen. 

One Voice, One Team is the brainchild of Orlando Bowen, a former professional footballer who played for several years in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Launched  in 2005, the organization aims to help empower youth to utilize their leadership skills and talents to better themselves and their community. Over the past 12 years, One Voice, One Team has worked with over 700 schools and engaged more than 300,000 youth. 

Mr. Hamilton was first exposed to the program five years ago when he was principal at Centre Dufferin District High School. He credits One Voice, One Team with bringing the school community together at CDDHS during what he described as a difficult time. Between the summer and fall of 2013, the school saw a “drastic change” in its student populace, with an influx of new residents.

“The migration from Brampton, Mississauga and Toronto, it basically happened overnight. We started seeing real issues in our community, a real urban versus rural divide. We went from a school that had two percent visible minority to around 40 percent, it was a big change,” Mr. Hamilton said. “We looked at a million different ways to try and bring our (student base) together and eventually found One Voice, One Team. A vice-principal and I spent three hours on the phone with Orlando and we were sold.”

While there are no real issues of note Mr. Hamilton is trying to solve at ODSS, he believes One Voice, One Team is providing a platform for all students to get involved in their community, rather than just the usual suspects.

“What I have found through this program is it’s the kids who aren’t connected to much in school that get involved. You’d think it would be your athletes and your student council, but it’s been an incredible mix of kids here at ODSS,” Mr. Hamilton said. “The really cool thing is it’s kids who want to help make a difference, be the difference they want to see in their community. It’s a really powerful program.”

Since the beginning of the school year, the One Voice, One Team group has been involved in various activities throughout the community. More than 50 kids helped in an Island Lake Trail Clean-Up in October, while 35 students participated in the Santa Claus parade. Throughout the month of December, One Voice, One Team hashelped with such things as the Salvation Army Christmas Hampers program, the Orangeville Legion’s Senior’s Dinner, a Christmas lunch for special needs students in the area and a Christmas toy sort.

In the new year, the group will be helping with the Orangeville Food Bank’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser. Mr. Hamilton said the group will also be assisting with the Habitat for Humanity build slated for Dufferin County in the near future. 

“The presence out in the community has been huge so far, and it’s only growing,” said Mr. Vickery, a business teacher at ODSS. “There are little things that show we’re making progress, like when you see the blue hoodies the students wear – it’s like a blue wave and it doesn’t (discriminate). You see athletes out in the hall communicating with quiet kids, students from different social circles coming together. We’ve created a common ground, a common goal for these students to focus on and work on together.”

One of those athletes is Grade 12 student Anyang Atem, a seven-foot tall basketball star. He has been involved with One Voice, One Team from the get go, participating in every single organized event so far this school year. 

“I really enjoy the volunteering and the giving back,” said Mr. Atem, a native of South Sudan. “If I can help somebody out and that person turns around and helps somebody else out, it has a snowball effect that makes the community a better place. Being a part of One Voice, One Team, it doesn’t matter how old you are, what grade you’re in or what your interests are. We all have the same common goal. Everyone works towards the same thing.”

Grade 9 students Julia Yates and Erika Buffett got involved with the program after attending an information session in September. Now, they say One Voice, One Team will be a focal point of their high school journey for the next three years at least.

“I’ve always been really into volunteering. I like helping people, it makes me feel like I’m giving back to the community,” Ms. Yates said.

Ms. Buffett added, “I helped out with the Santa Claus parade and the Christmas toy sort. There’s this special atmosphere when (the One Voice, One Team) group gets together. It’s great.”

After witnessing first-hand the impact One Voice, One Team can have on a community, Mr. Hamilton is keen to see the program grow into local elementary schools. His long-term vision would be to have every school in Orangeville operating under the Once Voice, One Team banner, helping to make a difference in the community.

“This thing is really spreading. One Voice, One Team is becoming a hot commodity and I’d like to see it spread even in Orangeville. Our dream is to see it outgrow ODSS almost, to have 300 kids out in the community in their blue hoodies, serving the community,” Mr. Hamilton said.

When asked how he measures the success of the program, he looks back on individual cases when One Voice, One Team has quite literally turned students’ lives around.

“There are kids involved who will happily tell you they couldn’t stay out of trouble, but now they’re involved in One Voice, One Team, they have something to channel their energy into,” Mr. Hamilton said. “We have one child who didn’t come to school last year, not once, but he hasn’t missed a day since joining One Voice, One Team. He hasn’t missed a single event. For me, that’s worth this program alone, that measures the success, that one child right there.”

He concluded, “So I think about these individual kids and the impact the program has had on them. For even one kid it’s worth it, but I know we’re reaching more. I hope we’re building a better culture here. I hope we’re making a difference. Helping to develop kids to care about others and the community they live in – that’s a special thing.”

For more information on One Voice, One Team, visit

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