The energy was so high that even Education Minister Clyde Jackman had to throw out his speaking notes, and pick up the pace when he spoke at the opening ceremonies of the 23rd Annual Provincial Student Leadership Conference held at Laval High School Oct. 11-14.
“I had a prepared speech for them and it was very formal, so within 15 minutes in that room, I knew that my speech wasn’t going to cut it, so I spoke right from the heart,” said the Education Minister. “The energy of that room, those kids, energized my speech. I’ve been in politics for nine years, and I’ve been to some pretty pumped up activities, but I am telling you one thing. I have not seen the energy that was produced anywhere else as I saw in that room that night.”
Jackman, a former educator himself, said the leadership conference is truly a good news story for education in the province, especially at a time when bullying stories are hitting the news on a regular basis.
“Sometimes it’s unfortunate that some of the incidents that happen like bullying, entire schools sometimes get tagged with it, but I can assure you, there were 350 students there that night that are exemplary and show what kind of students we have here in this province,” he stated. “As I said to those students, they aren’t here by accident. They were chosen because they are leaders – within their schools and within their communities.”
Laval hosted the conference for the third time. Laval principal Gord Pike said students who show leadership qualities are the ones who get chosen to go because they are good ambassadors, and can bring what they learned back to their home schools.
“It is really impossible to measure what they bring to it and what they get out of it,” said Pike. “But certainly, it is a lot of fun for everyone.”
Pike noted 48 schools from around the province attended the four-day conference, with over 350 students, teachers, advisors and guests attending.
The conference was fully scheduled with educational events and activities along with a whole lot of fun and socializing for the teens, including dances, pump up sessions, banquets, scavenger hunts and inspirational speakers.
Grade 9 student Maggie Follett, 13, and Grade 11 student Zack Newhook, 16, were the student hosts for the conference, entitled “Leadership – There’s an app for that.”
Follett said the best thing she found about the conference was meeting so many new people.
“The friends that you meet are just amazing because they are different. When you get a chance to meet new people, you can just totally break out of your shell. It’s a lot of fun,” said Follett.
Newhook said he quite enjoyed the drumming sessions, and had fun, especially with the drum line organized by Floyd Edison. “He taught us a few basic rhythms and got us to improvise a bit on our own and told us a bit about himself, so that was nice.”
Follett and Newhook both really enjoyed the drama programs and hearing from guest speakers, who they found to be inspirational in what they’ve done.
“It is so inspiring. Oh my God. I want to do something with my life so badly,” said Follett, who has attended conferences like this previously, and competes in the Kiwanis Music Festival.
Newhook noted it is a little different being the host and being behind the podium, but he really enjoyed the many interactions he took part in.
“Our school has always had great school spirit, and I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve been told I bleed spirit,” laughed Follett. “I’m not sure, but the teaching staff at Laval just encourage us to be the best that we can be, and not to be afraid what anyone else thinks. At these conferences, if you care about what people think, then you get a little crazy, then there is no point of going. If you aren’t going to get out of your shell, you aren’t going to meet anyone new.”
Both students said they received a lot of positive feedback about their opening ceremonies.
“Apparently they were the best in years,” said Newhook, noting there is a video available of the opening posted on www.placentiabay.ca.
“We had a big band with a ten song melody, we had a flash mob, a drum circle. It was big. Every single school got to come up and dance onstage,” said Follett. “It was really big and nice to see everyone come together.”
“The thing about the opening ceremonies is that it’s not just the show. It’s everybody collaborating to produce one big sound and the right ambience,” he said. “Everyone is working together and we are all part of the same boat.”
Both students say they would love to go another leadership conference.
“I would do it again in an instant,” said Follett. “We had so much fun.”
Both students also said everyone had a great time with social media throughout the conference and because of the theme, “There’s an app for that,” everyone tried to utilize the technology.
“We had a digital scavenger hunt, which was a lot of fun, and we used Facebook and Twitter to communicate at times,” said Follett.
Both really enjoyed meeting new friends and learning so much through the sessions and guest speakers.
Newhook described getting onstage with his ukulele and playing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
“I got up onstage and we started playing, and everyone joined in and sang along. It was really nice that we all came together for that,” said Newhook.
“A lot of people really enjoyed that,” said Follett. “It just goes to show when one person starts something, it can cause a chain reaction.”
Certainly, that’s probably the point of these leadership conferences, according to the Laval principal.
“It’s all about these students being able to take some of these leadership qualities back home and sharing them at their own schools.”