Palliser to celebrate student leadership efforts

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Good leaders know when to speak up, and just as importantly, when to listen.

There will be plenty of opportunities for both on Thursday as more than 300 students from across the division gather at Heritage Christian Academy in Calgary for Palliser Regional Schools’ Student Leadership Celebration.

The event is a follow-up to “Discover U,” a leadership conference In Lethbridge in November which encouraged students in Grades 7-12 to “explore, create and achieve.”  They took in a variety of break-out sessions planned by and carried out by fellow students covering topics like making an impact 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 develop an action plan to achieve it. They returned to their schools motivated and with a better understanding of what it is to be a leader and the types of things they could help achieve.

Now it’s time to reunite and celebrate the difference they and their schoolmates were able to make.

Palliser didn’t just provide the students with a conference, Palliser’s Associate Superintendent, Pat Rivard, says it allowed them the opportunity to take action on projects of interest to them.  In follow-up meetings since that conference, he was treated to a sneak peek of what will unfold this week.

“What’s really neat about it is it really reflects the diversity that exists in Palliser. We saw multiple presentations from multiple points of view and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together,” says Rivard.

Some 20 display booths will stretch down the hallways of Heritage Christian, with a number of schools taking a turn on stage to highlight their achievements. It’s not only a chance to showcase their efforts, but to pick up some ideas that have worked well in other schools.

“When you leave it up to the kids to generate ideas, they do a much better job than we do,” Rivard says. “So I think it’s going to be a great opportunity to share.”

Projects ranged from means to increase school spirit, to fitness videos for classroom breaks, and efforts to welcome recent refugees.

The students shouldn’t need a lot of outside motivation, but keynote speaker Cassie Hawrysh will open the event with some inspiring words.

The Brandon native was a collegiate volleyball player and multi-event track and field athlete who took up skeleton racing in 2009. Hawrysh broke onto the international scene within two years and was an alternate for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. She is a former Canadian champion with top-four finishes in World Cup events in a sport which sees competitors race head-first down an icy chute at speeds of up to 140 km/h.

The event, which will include interactive games and activities, is also an opportunity for a passing of the torch when it comes to members of the “Blue Team.”  That group of students, who helped plan and host the November leadership conference, has already seen a number of younger students take the reins.

The students have voiced an interest, however, in having those graduating students remain involved in future leadership events in an alumni role, if interested.

Rivard says that will help “build a culture of student leadership in Palliser,” as will the first-ever conference for Grades 4-6 students next week at Vulcan Prairieview Elementary.

“It’s important to have the younger kids looking up to the older kids and say, ‘I can do that one day too,’ ” he says.