From Surviving to Thriving: Grade 8 Students Shine as Leaders

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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.

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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!

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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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Kyle Slavin
Kyle Slavin is the school's storyteller. Through words and photos, he shares with the community all the amazing things that happen on campus.

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