CAIS Student Leadership Conference '09

by Scott Dallen, Grade 11

This past week, myself and a group of four other Grade 11 SMUS students (Kirsten Macleod, Caitlin Lastiwka-Farquharson, Lisa Evans, Sydney Stockus), accompanied by Reverend Keven Fletcher attended the 2009 CAIS student leadership conference in Hamilton, Ontario. This year’s conference was held by Hillfield Strathallan College and the theme was “The Power of One.”

Over the course of four days, the delegates of the CAIS conference explored a variety of issues facing the world today. The students were all divided into ‘pod groups’, each of which was assigned a world issue that they were to make a presentation on at the end of the conference.

My own group dealt with the issues surrounding world poverty and hunger. Our goal was to determine the role of individuals in solving the global poverty crisis. On Saturday morning we, pod #1(aka, Team Shenaniganz), traveled to a local food-bank ‘Neighbor to Neighbor’ in the hopes of learning more about the poverty facing the city of Hamilton and what we as students could do. Unfortunately, ‘scheduling conflicts’ intervened and ultimately we walked back to Hillfield (having dealt with adversity) to continue work on our presentation.

Our pod focused predominately on local and urban poverty in Canada; our mindset was to think globally and act locally. The presentation showcased plans for present and future programmes in our cities and schools across Canada including SMUS’ own 30 Hour Famine, Walk for Water (Friday, April 24), and Poverty Panel (Thursday, May 21). Other topics included corruption and political apathy, slavery and trafficking, statelessness and refugees, and environmental issues. The pods traveled to an array of sites across Hamilton.

The delegates had the opportunity to experience a sensational lineup of inspiring speakers; these included a group from Absolute Leadership Development who were backed up by their band ‘The Ocean Buried’, Canadian actor Matt Evans, leadership guru/comedian Stu Saunders, Olympian Colin Jenkins, and Ron Foxcroft, the creator of the Fox-40 whistle (‘The worlds only pea-less whistle’) and owner of Fluke Transportation (‘If its on time, its a Fluke’).

The conference’s delegates hailed from all over Canada and the world: from Victoria to Halifax; Hillfield Strathallan to Miss Edgar & Cramp’s School; Polish roller-skaters to enthusiastic Aussie’s. Working closely amongst diverse groups of people created an atmosphere where personalities flourished and strong connections could be made. Events like the trip to Niagara Falls, the Pod Olympics and the daily, ritualistic ‘Big Wows’ allowed the conference to bring 150 strangers closer together than we would have ever thought possible in four days.

The week culminated in a formal dinner-dance, which served as a fond and final farewell before our reluctant departure early the following morning. The CAIS student leadership conference creates opportunities for students to develop effective leadership skills and lifelong connections across Canada. Thank you to everyone at CAIS ’09 for an amazing experience that I could never forget.

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