BAIE VERTE, NL — Jaime Robin Walsh describes participating in a national youth forum in Ontario late last month as one of the best experiences of her life.
Hosted by the Waterloo Region District School Board and Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School, the 33rd Canadian Student Leadership Conference took place Sept. 26-30.
Walsh, 16, was one of eight students and two teachers from Copper Ridge Academy in Baie Verte who attended the conference.
“I really enjoyed the speakers and the spirit of the conference,” she said. “The people there were so inspirational. Everyone was enthusiastic and enjoying their time.”
The conference goal was to build on the theme of developing an “innovative spirit” in students.
Walsh is now eager to share what she’s learned with other students at her school.
“We learned a lot of cheers to help pump up our students,” she said. “The energy there was unreal.”
Baie Verte students making the trip — from Grades 7 to 12 — were all members of the school’s leadership committee last year.
Teacher Ryan White said the trip was a great opportunity for his students.
“When we first arrived, we came into Waterloo to Sir John A. Macdonald High School and we were greeted by hundreds of students cheering and chanting,” White said. “Coming from a small school, our students certainly aren’t used to that.”
The students were divided into various groups, giving them an opportunity to meet and work with students from other provinces. All students were invited to attend the various keynote speakers’ presentations.
Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder and executive director of War Child Canada, told her story of being at the front lines of many of the world’s major crises in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Darfur. Stu Saunders was another keynote speaker. He travels across the United States and Canada delivering empowering and memorable presentations.
“Stu is the head of (Youth Leadership Camps Canada) YLCC Media,” White said. “They just finished doing a documentary that will be released in the next couple of weeks called ‘Rising Above.’ The documentary looks at bullying within the school system. A portion of the film is dedicated to the girl (Lynelle Cantwell) from Holy Trinity High School. So, this presentation resonated with our students because of the local connection.”
The teacher also sat in on the professional development/advisor session.
“That was advocating for teachers,” he said. “We talk about how we can change the kids and have them fit into our format, or how we could use how kids are coming into us to our advantage and adapt to their uses of technology and social media. It was a good session, and it definitely resonated with me.”
Students also visited a farmer’s market. They set themselves up outside a grocery store and encouraged shoppers to make donations to a local food bank.
“When it was all said and done the students had collected 42,000 meals for the Waterloo area,” White said.
Students and staff were grateful to the community for supporting the fundraisers that made the trip possible.
For Chelsea Greenham, the highlight of the conference was meeting people of various ethnicities.
“We learned a lot about how leadership affects everybody across Canada,” the 16-year-old said. “And, where we live in a small community, we (the school’s leadership group) got to experience all the excitement from the conference. The spirit awareness was amazing, and will help us to revive the spirit at our school.”
As for attending the conference, she said it’s something all students should experience at least once in their lives.
Sam Stuckless enjoyed the various activities as well as the workshops and presentations. Those who gave presentations were passionate about their cause, according to the 16-year-old, and the topics were interesting.
“The whole idea of school spirit, of cheering, is something we can all bring back to our schools,” Stuckless said. “Everyone is part of a group, but can still be their own person. And we can support each other.”