Palliser invests in student leaders

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Motivational speaker Phil Boyt helped student leaders prepare for the conference the following day.

Now that the recent leadership conference has spurred hundreds of students into action, Palliser Regional Schools’ challenge is to ride that wave of support into an ongoing commitment for positive change.

More than 500 students in Grades 7-12 participated in the conference and gained inspiration through breakout sessions covering topics like making an impact both locally and globally, finding your passion, and creating a legacy.

Afterwards they gathered to identify a change they’d like to see in their own school and come up with an action plan to achieve it. They’ll meet again in the spring to provide an update.

“What we’re going to do inside of the schools to feed the momentum from the conference is have the principals be responsible to have three markers before the spring conference where we will measure the progress of their respective projects,” says Pat Rivard, Palliser’s Associate Superintendent.

The students were also asked to fill out a survey to rate various elements of the conference, measure whether their leadership skills improved as a result of information they gained, and recommendations of any potential changes for future events.

Palliser’s second leadership conference saw greater student involvement than the first.

A core group of about 15 student leaders – many of them identified through the initial conference last year – began meeting in March with school and senior administrators. They came up with the conference theme and then both chose and presented the breakout topics. The students will also be asked to recommend some younger students from their own schools to step forward in a leadership role next year.

Rivard says it was important to recognize the contributions of those student leaders to encourage such commitment in the future.

“You can reward kids for doing the work they did or you can invest in them. We took the approach of investing in our leadership,” he says.

Arrangements were made through Palliser Beyond Borders to provide those students with course credits under Career and Technology Studies for their time and efforts.  Letters of reference from Palliser Superintendent Kevin Gietz are also in the works for those students.

“That looks pretty good on a resume,” says Rivard. “If I put my employer hat on and it’s between a student that’s done leadership and a student who hasn’t, I’m going to pick the student who has.”

The evening prior to the conference those core leaders, and a couple of dozen schoolmates who helped with presentations, gathered at the conference hall. They decorated the venue before working with motivational speaker Phil Boyt, who provided them with tips on leadership and how to capture the attention of session attendees.

Those students, nicknamed the “Blue Team” for their group T-shirts, also had the opportunity to speak with a variety of mentors arranged through the Chinook Regional Foundation for Career Transitions. With choices ranging from lawyer to social worker and police officer to psychologist, students were able to arrange for ongoing guidance if they found an occupation of interest.

Rivard says lessons learned by the Blue Team through the organization of the leadership conference will serve them well in the future in other ways as well. One of those is the realization that leadership doesn’t just happen; it requires “feet on the floor and rolling up your sleeves.”

“I think the process in itself has demonstrated many skills that they are going to require later in life to lead in whatever they decide to lead,” he says.

Showcasing the work done by the student leaders could also provide something for future team members to strive for. While Sophia Cliplef has yet another year to shine, her co-MC, Andrew te Linde, graduates this spring. Rivard says the organizing committee is contemplating some means to keep students  like te Linde connected with his school and the division, perhaps through a vehicle similar to Palliser Regional Schools’ Wall of Fame.

In addition to the breakout sessions and ice breaker games the Student Leadership Conference – which saw community support from businesses including RBC Royal Bank – featured keynote speaker David Usher and also a graphic recording of the ideas which took flight on two larger banners by Laurie and Rob Benn of the Positive Culture Company.