Preeceville and Sturgis students Inspired to “Take Action”

Members of Preeceville and Sturgis Student Representative Councils, accompanied by their advisors, travelled to Watrous for the annual Saskatchewan Student Leadership Conference on September 18 to September 20.

Preeceville students and their advisor who attended were: Leslea Hanson, advisor and students Almina Kovcic, Paje Reynolds, Matthew Newton and Camryn Nelson.

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Sturgis Composite School representatives were: Eloisa Vicente, Shae Peterson, Carter Masley, Kale Musey, Shanae Olson, and Nathan Hrynchyshyn, advisor.

“Our goal is to inspire, motivate and empower students, to help them develop their existing leadership skills while learning and strengthening new ones,” said Hanson.

Students from over 100 schools in Saskatchewan enjoyed a welcome barbeque and activities upon arriving at Winston High School. After the barbeque, students were featured in the “parade of stars” in which the citizens of Watrous lined the streets to welcome the many students visiting the community.

The opening ceremonies took place at the Watrous Curling Rink, where the students were greeted by many community leaders. The first keynote speaker, Houston Kraft, the co-founder of CharacterStrong, spoke of kindness being a key component of leadership. He challenged students to consider the things that get in the way of kindness, all of which boil down to individual choices. The first evening ended with a fireworks show.

Day two was very busy for students and advisors. Everyone met at the curling rink for opening activities and the SASCA Awards. The second keynote speaker, Tyler Durnam, entertained the crowd with stories featuring the message of imperfection and action. He said “It’s not what you say that matters; it’s what you do” and advocated that serving others will signify a meaningful life.

Students and advisors participated in small group sessions through the day. Preeceville and Sturgis students attended a tradeshow and workshop with Tyler Durnam. The Sturgis students also enjoyed yoga and wheelchair basketball.

Almina Kovcic, from Preeceville, was especially impressed by Durnam’s message; she paraphrased, “the most powerful thing you have in leadership is your vulnerability. The differences we have are beautiful. We are all living the best story we know how. You don’t need to be perfect to live a compelling story. Heroes are imperfect, but they take action. Live a life of love. Life is for love.” 

Sturgis students attended other small group sessions, which included yoga. All students met back together to enjoy the third keynote speaker, Alison Springer, who spoke of a person’s ability to be capable of anything.

Meanwhile, advisors attended another session featuring Houston Kraft, where he spoke of cultivating culture in school. He defined school culture as the behaviours of the various members associated with the schools, and school climate being the by-product of those behaviours. He challenged the advisors to consider how school culture can be affected in meaningful ways. He shared his CharacterStrong curriculum which features tools and strategies to develop social and emotional skills.

Students met with their advisors again in the evening for a Hollywood Gala themed banquet. The students then enjoyed a dance, while the advisors took in a comedy evening.

As the theme of the conference was “Take Action,” students and advisors took part in community service projects Friday morning. Preeceville students enjoyed buddy reading with Watrous elementary students, while Sturgis students raked leaves, washed windows on Main Street and tied and organized bowling shoes.

The final keynote speaker was Craig Kielburger, co-founder of WE Day, WE Charity, and Me to WE. He shared his origin story and spoke of the mentors who have inspired him along his journey. He challenged the students to use their voices, to ask for help, to invest in their education, and to not wait, as they are a “self-selected” group of leaders. Shanae Olson of Sturgis said she enjoyed all of the speakers, adding, “Their stories were all based around being kind, being great leaders and taking action, but they were fun, entertaining and related well to high school students. They all made you feel as if you could do anything you set your mind to. They created a positive mindset for everyone to take back to their schools and everyday lives.”

The closing ceremonies included a presentation from Gull Lake, the host of next year’s SSLC. Preeceville and Sturgis students came back with many ideas to discuss with the students of their respective schools.

Reflecting on their experiences, this is what the students had to say:

Almina Kovcic, Grade 11 student: “Being able to meet new people from other schools across Saskatchewan and listening to amazing speakers was a great honour and a privilege. Events like these, and people that put so much effort in organizing them, are very valuable. I can’t be thankful enough for this opportunity, not only to meet new friends that are made for life, but also to be able to learn from people like Tyler, Alison, Houston and Craig. In his speech, Craig said, ‘together, we can change the world and each and every day gives us an opportunity to make a difference.’ Leadership conferences push us to take one more step forward in creating a change.”

Paje Reynolds, Grade 7 student: “During the 2019 SSLC conference, I learned a lot about leadership. The best part of the conference was that we were with young leaders like ourselves.  I enjoyed the many motivational speakers we listened to every day. The workshop with Tyler Durman taught us how to relate to others and become wonderful leaders.”

Camryn Nelson, Grade 7 student: “I learned leadership is not just about who is the best leader; it’s about knowing the kind of leader you want to become. I learned that everyone is struggling, and everyone is different for a reason. If we accept who we are, talents and imperfections, we will live happier lives. My favourite part of the SSLC was meeting new people!”

Matthew Newton, Grade 8 student: “My biggest takeaway is that being a good leader means helping others, being kind and being generous. Leadership is more than being in charge or ordering people around. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. I especially enjoyed Tyler Durnam as a speaker.”

Carter Masley, Grade 12 student: “My biggest takeaway is that we don’t have to sit back and wait for others to solve a problem. Leadership isn’t about being the coolest person; it’s about being humble and wise, and being able to have others engage and believe in you. At events like this, you get to meet people from all over and share ideas to use in your own school.”

Eloisa Vicente, Grade 11 student: “Being a leader is not just having a position to your name; it’s about being a role model and asking for help when you need it. It is valuable to hold events like this so other leaders will learn how schools from all over the province run their SRC’s.”

Shanae Olson, Grade 12 student: “Our kindness and what we, as young leaders do, affects future leaders, so it is important to make an impact and set a good example. If you are really passionate about something that can help other people, there is always a way, and you are never too young to do so. By taking the risk to share your ideas, you are bound to find people who feel the same and, together, you can build on something great. Being a young leader takes a lot of courage; a leader is not necessarily the person doing the most work or getting the most credit, but someone who can be kind to everyone and find ways to involve as many people as possible.”