From Surviving to Thriving: Grade 8 Students Shine as Leaders


Last Friday, Grade 8 students from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland descended on SMUS to participate in a unique, student-organized leadership conference, From Surviving to Thriving. With a goal of building skills that will benefit Grade 8s this year and through their Senior School years, the conference centred around some pretty hefty topics, including self-image and mental health, leadership skills, 21st-century savvy, and strength of character and resiliency.

From Surviving to Thriving was organized by nearly 30 Grade 8 SMUS students, along with Director of Leadership, Becky Anderson, and Middle School Assistant Director Dariol Haydock. The day was a great success, and all those in attendance left with a new arsenal of leadership skills that will help them navigate school and beyond.


The SMUS From Surviving to Thriving conference was​ a fantastic experience for me. It was the first conference I have ever been to and it was great. I learned a great deal of things that I never knew before. The conference also honed the leadership skills I already have and gave me a different insight into many different things I would not have thought of before. As an organizer, it was nice to see that all the work and effort I put into the conference over the past months paid off.

​As an organizer, I learned quite a few lessons while setting up the event. Even though I had some small jobs, such as establishing some of the emails to go out to members of the conference and organizing the lunch and snacks, I gained many leadership skills from observing other Grade 8 students and how they worked. It helped me become a better organizer and, more importantly, a better leader.

​The actual conference was what had one of the more profound impacts on me. Listening to speakers such as Anna Soole and Ann Makosinski gave me a new perspective on many concepts I didn’t really understand before. Bullying, depression and consent were topics I had not really thought about, but now that I understand these topics, I am confident that I will apply them to my everyday life. I also found some workshops that I really enjoyed, such as the “Becoming a Global Leader” workshop. I hope to do things like that more often in the future.

My involvement in this conference was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I know that I will be going to other conferences later on in my years at SMUS and hopefully I will get the chance to organize some more. I would like to say a big thank you to Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Haydock for their major contributions to the conference, and the other Grade 8 students who were involved in the conference. It would have never happened without your help and hard work. Overall, this was an unbelievable event and truly the best conference ever!


In the past few weeks, the planning committee (which I am SMUS-MS-SurvivingThriving-Gin) was trying to set up for the best leadership conference ever! In these weeks we had lots of fun organizing, but we also learned a lot. This conference was mostly about leadership, and leadership was a big part of this planning committee. We had to make sure that everybody gets an equal voice during planning and fitting into other people’s plans.

We had a few guest speakers come to the conference. One of them was Anna Soole. She was a big part of our conference, and she taught us about gender equality and how people expect certain things if you’re a boy or a girl.

After the conference, my friends and I had a few conversations about it and how it went. Now I am thinking about how I can add the skills I learned into my own life. I want to be a leader among Grade 8 boarding students. Since I have the skills that the speakers taught me, I can start to be a real leader and do what a leader does. I am looking forward to whatever is coming up in my life and using these skills to be a leader.

See more photos of the From Surviving to Thriving leadership conference at the SMUS Photo Gallery.


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