Two major — but very different — events have given Middle School students a chance to sharpen their leadership skills. Several students travelled to Toronto to the CAIS Middle School Student Leadership Conference to hear from different speakers on finding personal strengths and how to be an effective leader. A second group of students recently went to We Day, a massive conference that brings celebrities and speakers such as Desmond Tutu together to inspire students to change the world around them.
I expected We Day to be really exciting and motivating. I wanted to learn more about how I could help people who are less fortunate than me in my community and around the world. We Day was amazing and exceeded my expectations.
When the concert started, I thought about how lucky I was to be there. We saw many talented performers and singers – such as Demi Lovato – and speakers like Magic Johnson and Desmond Tutu. However, I thought that the most influential presenter was Molly Burke. She talked about bullying, finding one’s voice and standing up to what one believes in. I think that she inspired me the most because she is legally blind and told a personal story about overcoming the fear of being bullied.
I learned that we can make a difference even with a small gesture. For example, I would like to see our school collect pennies. Did you know that collecting 2500 pennies or $25 can provide one person with fresh water for life? Indeed, a small idea can change someone’s life for the better.
Scott Hammel, a three-time Guinness world record holder, talked to us about finding your passion and making it happen. His passion is being an escape artist and magician; he showed us how to get out of a straight jacket. Even though it meant him popping his shoulder out of place a few times he still said “yay”! We learned that no matter what your passion is, you can make it happen if you try.
As I took my first step onto the bus, my expectations started grow. I could tell already that We Day would inspire me to take action, and I was right.
We Day is an event held by Free the Children with the purpose to inspire a generation of kids and promote global and community change. It is like a rock concert with a purpose — including many famous guest speakers and musicians. It is held in many locations across Canada and our Free the Children exploratory group attended the one in Vancouver.
It was an incredible experience. The arena was filled with 20,000 teens and pre-teens who had enough energy to light up Vancouver. Every one of them was ready to take care of what they believe in the most. Desmond Tutu told us, “You are all very special people. You are VSP’s!” This is just an example of one of the strong messages that will stick with everyone who was there.
The most motivational speaker from my perspective was 12-year-old Sydney Brouillard. She is a young girl who helps homeless people in her community. She inspired me to take action like she did. She spoke with clarity and honesty; it was amazing. The lesson she taught was that you can be a normal kid who takes small actions that change people’s lives.
Sydney and the many others who spoke, like Desmond Tutu, Magic Johnson, and Craig and Mark Kielburger, motivated me to start small. I am now going to help people do what they love and live the way they want to live — not let their own self-consciousness or life’s circumstances get in the way of their true potential.
We Day was fantastic. The trip itself was fun and it has affected me as a person by widening my heart to social change. We Day made me forget about my personal troubles and think of “we” not “me”. By the end, it exceeded my expectations. It was the most memorable experience of my life. How could it not be?
After the CAIS Middle School Conference, I realized how fortunate we are at SMUS, with a excellent culture that encourages us to lead in any way we can. The particular workshop I liked was called Managing to Lead. There, we learned ways to make our ideas happen. When the facilitator explained how to implement our ideas at SMUS, I saw how much of this we already had adopted and are using already. This amazed me and reminded me how lucky we are to go to one of the best schools in Canada.