Palliser shares leadership lessons

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Schools wrapped up Palliser's student leadership conference by coming up with an action plan to make a difference in their school and the larger community.

LETHBRIDGE – If there’s one thing even more satisfying than discovering something remarkable, it’s sharing it with someone else.

Palliser Regional Schools’ focus on student leadership has resulted in positive changes at the school level.  After a Medicine Hat school was invited to attend the “Discover U” student leadership conference last year, the impact should be even greater this year.

Close to 400 Grade 7-12 students from across Palliser were joined by almost 100 invited guests from four other school jurisdictions across Zone 6 at this year’s conference, which carried the theme of “Strength in U: Unite Your Community.”

“We feel leadership is an important 21st century skill that many people need, and we want to develop that skill,” said Jason Kupery, Director of Learning, responsible for leadership. “In order to do that in a more profound way we want to invite as many different school districts as we can, and continue to build on the strength of diversity in our community.”

Isaac Olsen, of Gilbert Paterson Middle School in Lethbridge, appreciated being part of the larger community celebrating the day.

“It brought everyone together,” said the Grade 8 student, of the conference at the University of Lethbridge. “When you are at your school you can get distracted with other things going on, but this makes a point that it’s actually important and (leadership is) something we need to be aware of.”

While Olsen took away with him a message that leadership is all about teamwork, schoolmate Sierra Ormston noted an emphasis that even the smallest of good deeds can make a difference in somebody’s life.

“I was glad to be part of it,” she said of Discover U, which is organized by students, for students. “It’s a good way to interact with all the other schools and learn new things about them.”

The day began with keynote speaker Gery Schubert, who provided comedic motivation as “international man of mystery, Austin Powers.” He put the students through secret agent training before getting serious with some tips on being a good leader.

Participants then attended breakout sessions in which students highlighted the positive changes they’ve made at their respective schools.

The Coalhurst High School team put on a session about fostering collaboration. They talked about the four fundamental values of working together: kindness, listening, trust and empathy.

“The idea is you take that information and you learn to work better with anyone – coworkers, schoolmates or family – and you learn to be nicer to those around you,” said Grade 12 student Shaye Anne Pierson. “It’s a universal lesson that everyone should take to heart.”

Students wrapped up the day by gathering  again as schools and coming up with action plans for the year ahead. They’ll showcase those efforts in a follow-up conference in May.

Palliser has asked students to focus this year on working with the larger community.

“We want to make sure our schools are safe and caring, but we also want them to go beyond that and become a bigger, more positive presence in their communities,” said Kupery.

Grade 7 student Jason Jerry said Milo Community School is looking at doing something for the less fortunate in their community, perhaps making their Christmas a little brighter.

Another change this year will see partnerships formed between schools, so they can mentor each other in areas of leadership and celebrate victories together.

Jerry’s schoolmate Lanie Many Bears was excited to see Milo paired up with Calgary Islamic School Akram Jomaa Campus. The Grade 9 student said there’s already talk about the two Palliser schools joining forces to put on a cultural fair.

Chair Robert Strauss, who brought greetings from the Palliser Regional Schools Board of Trustees, reminded students that leaders don’t set out to become leaders; they set out to accomplish a cause.

Pat Rivard, Palliser’s Associate Superintendent, thanked those who made the conference possible including staff, all the students, the “Blue Team” which consists of student leaders, and sponsors RBC Royal Bank, KPMG Lethbridge and the University of Lethbridge.