Leadership lessons to serve students well

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Members of the Blue Team pose for photos with their certificates of appreciation.

CALGARY – There’s not a chance that Allison Feenstra, Just a few short years ago, would have imagined herself accepting praise for her leadership skills before hundreds of applauding peers. 

Once more content to blend into the scenery than take a bow centre stage, the Noble Central School student was among 13 graduating members of the “Blue Team” singled out at the end of Palliser Regional Schools’ student leadership conference for the legacy they’ve provided.

“I’ve grown in that aspect,” Feenstra said of her time with the core group of student leaders who organized the conferences. “I’m not just focusing on myself.  I’m focusing on my whole school and how we can help the community and how the community can help us. It’s been such an eye-opener for me.”

Leaving a legacy was among the topics of the breakout sessions available to about 270 Grade 7-12 students from across Palliser who took part in the leadership conference at Trinity Christian School.

While a legacy is something many don’t think about until their waning years, Pat Rivard noted the Blue Team has already managed to make a difference.   The Associate Superintendent Education Services said those students have left their footprints not in the sand, but in cement, and have helped build a foundation that will serve students for years to come.

The Blue Team’s leadership role has also proved beneficial to Feenstra’s immediate future. She’s off to university next year to pursue a career in nursing, and was successful in applying for leadership-related grant and a leadership trip to Ottawa, followed by an internship in the nation’s capital on the same theme.

Fellow Blue Team grad Calum Robertson hopes to figure out a career plan during his “gap” year. During his successful job interview with Alberta Pioneer Camp, the Master’s College student was queried about his leadership work at Palliser. It was exactly what the summer camp for children was looking for.

“The program they run year-round is called “Lead.” And guess what? You learn to be a leader,” said Robertson, with a grin. “They said ‘perfect, we want people who are at the level you’re at now,’ which is what Blue Team has done for me.”

He also credits the experience with increased confidence in his own abilities, and a realization that a leader has to know when to delegate and trust that others can get the job done.  Robertson’s favourite part of Blue Team, however, was meeting and interacting with peers he likely wouldn’t have met otherwise.

Kaitlyn Rose echoed that sentiment. The County Central High School student from Vulcan credits the student leadership team and everyone involved in the conferences with bringing her out of her shell.

“I became a lot more confident in my decisions and stopped second guessing myself because they taught me to have that confidence,” said the Blue Team grad.

Rose said her newfound independence should serve her well, as she heads off to university for a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Biotechnology.

Along with the breakout sessions on some best practices implemented in various Palliser schools to affect a positive change, the day-long conference allowed for team bonding, as students divided into groups for a variety of fun activities.

The event, which carried a theme of Discover CommUnity, also featured guest speaker Joshua Riker-Fox.  He told the students he had dreamed of being an Olympian since the age of 10.

“It’s completely ridiculous, but I was never going to back down on it,” said Riker-Fox, who would go on to finish 24th in the pentathlon – the best ever for a Canadian male in that event – in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

He said it was important to become part of a larger community to find the support needed for such a quest, including the raising of funds needed for training.

Riker-Fox, who also loves exploring entrepreneurial ventures, pointed to a study of the key workplace skills successful employees will need by 2020. Creativity, the ability to be forward-thinking  and emotional intelligence, were high on that list.

“The workplace will change, but leadership will never go out of style,” he said, applauding the students for their efforts to make a positive change.