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Senior Student Leadership Conference
By Allie Avard ‘18, Robyn-Lee Hotte ‘18, Joe Ribbins ‘18 and Noah Storey ‘18 from Lakefield College School
The question we have been asked the most since the conference wrapped up is: “Was it worth it?” Those four words hold a lot of weight, was it worth what? All the stress? The long hours? The sleepless nights? The sheer energy it takes to organize a conference? The response is, as it must be; of course. Of course it was worth it, because it wasn’t all time constraints and exhaustion, it wasn’t just hiccups and mishaps; it was joy, it was fulfillment, it was connection, it was pride.
The night before the delegates arrived brought along a lot of mixed emotions - excitement being the most prominent. We had already faced the worst of it, the planning was over and we were finally going to have something tangible to show for our hard work. That night we decided that we weren’t going to have our regularly scheduled meeting at 8:00 p.m., that it was best for us to take the night for ourselves. We all went to bed that night, some of us slept soundly, some of us didn’t sleep at all, but we felt confident about the next day. It was strange when we realized, cozied up in bed, that the names we’d been pouring over were finally going to have a face, that the activities we’d planned were actually going to happen. It wasn’t until delegates arrived at our doorstep that we realized the conference was running whether we were ready or not, and it was petrifying, but thankfully we were prepared for anything.
The first day went by in a blur, we spent all morning setting up with our POD leaders, and once delegates started arriving we spent the afternoon signing the schools in as they came. It seemed as though there was constantly something to do, either a nametag to fix; or a book to find; or a game to play, little problems would arise and it we’d go into a mini panic. Looking back, those problems did not warrant an ounce of panic, and as the conference progressed we got better at assessing the severity of problems.
The Thursday went by relatively painlessly, a few things had to be moved around due to unforeseen issues, but it overall went really well. Both of our keynote speakers were very well received by the delegates, and the question portion of the presentations saw the inquisitive students asking deep, thoughtful questions. It is hard to describe why we felt pride in those times, it felt like these connections to meaningful problems in the world were in part because of us, and that was amazing. That night, however, was the night that we were informed that our closing speaker on Saturday was sick in Spain and wouldn’t be able to make it in. Panic within the four student organizers ensued, thankfully our amazing staff advisors had come up with a solution before telling us so we were calmed pretty easily.
As Friday rolled around we were becoming drained, but we fell into our patterns. This conference really brought out where we excelled. Robyn-Lee spent most of her time behind a desk writing thank you letters and dealing with paper issues; Allie was out with the POD leaders making sure the schedule was being followed and that everyone was on task; Joe and Noah excelled at making connections with the delegates and POD leaders; always keeping up with what was going well and helping keep up the social side to having 100+ teens together. We all fell into our individual roles, and we played our parts well.
Saturday was the last day of the conference and throughout the day the students were asked to reflect on their learnings. We took this day to relax, most of it was spent in the classrooms as we all took time to take in what we pulled off. For the first time in months, the four of us finally felt as though we were friends again, not just co-organizers. We listened to each group as they presented their learnings to the rest of the conference, and pride filled our hearts. Through it all we feared that no one would connect with our theme, Finding our Footing, but our fears were proved wrong when we heard all of the delegates tell us their takeaways.
Circling back to the question: was it worth it? Yes, of course. Of course it was worth it, even if only one student got something out of the conference it would have been worth it. We wanted to hold this conference because we wanted to make a difference, and with all of the positive comments we’ve been hearing; we know we succeeded.
By Vera Wilcox, Director of Student Service/Head of House from Lakesfield College School
The seed for hosting the CAIS Senior Leadership Conference was planted last April when four Grade 11 LCS students - Allie Avard, Ben Dunk, Robyn Hotte and Noah Storey attended the CAIS conference at Toronto French School. They also got a little "encouragement" when they were introduced to our incoming Head of School, Anne-Marie Kee who enthusiastically said, “Wouldn't it be great if we hosted this at LCS next year!" And so the magic began when the three students - Allie, Robyn, and Noah were joined by Joe Ribbins to become the directors of this student-driven conference for students from across Canada.
The student team began preliminary planning discussions in May 2017, when the theme Finding Our Footing was created and a framework developed. Over the summer, the team reflected on, investigated and developed their ideas for the conference and starting in September, the "Fab Four" (as they affectionately came to be known) began meeting weekly with staff advisors Peter O'Grady, Vicky Boomgaardt, John Runza and Vera Wilcox. Other staff members including Janice Runza, Jen Horrigan and Tobey Gullick-Scott also volunteered their support.
Following many discussions, it was decided that the four pillars of the conference should be Environmental Stewardship, Social Responsibility, Digital Citizenship and Personal Leadership Development. The goal was to have students and staff alike learn how they could make a positive meaningful difference in their schools and our world. Finding the right speakers to enlighten, challenge and help everyone find and keep their footing, as they travelled their journeys to make a difference, was key.
In the final line-up, the conference speakers included:
- Joel Hilchey - Being Your Best Self - The Leader Within
- Sunshine Tenasco - Finding your courage to act, leading through action and example
- Dr.Betsy McGregor - Moving from passion to action
- ‘Get Real’ Presentation - Being yourself, breaking down prejudice, promoting unity, and fostering compassion in the world
- Barry Wright - Defining Leadership
It was great to see members of the LCS community jump in to offer their support as well. From Rhiannon Gilbart '12 who designed the logo for the conference, alumnus Nik Nemeczek ‘14 who provided the swag bags, t-shirts, hats and water bottles and the more than 30 students who took “pod” leadership training sessions, to the volunteer students and staff who ran the choice workshops and activity sessions, the Aramark staff who continually provided snacks and all of the meals, the maintenance department that worked to clear the snow and build our closing fire pit and the entire school community who welcomed everyone and showed them why LCS is such a special place!
The magic that was created between Wednesday, April 18 and Saturday, April 21 was felt by everyone involved. There was rich learning, sharing, and inspiration and new friendships were formed. It was difficult to say goodbye to the student delegates and staff on Sunday.
By Don Kawasoe, CAIS Interim Professional Learning Coordinator
Thank you to all the members of the Lakefield College School community and especially our student leadership team of Joe, Robyn, Allie and Noah; our Advisory Committee that included Phil Webster, Courtney Prieur and Judith Gorry and to our Lakefield advisors: Vicky Boomgaardt, Peter O-Grady, John Runza and Vera Wilcox for your outstanding efforts in hosting a most successful SSLC this past April.
Congratulations to Shawnigan Lake, who were confirmed as the host school for the 2019 SSLC by our Lakefield team!