Summer days…


Before summer memories fade away completely, I asked our students to share some interesting things they did over the summer holidays.

Jonathan attended the Shad Program at Memorial University in Newfoundland.

shadThis summer I went to the Memorial University of Newfoundland to participate in the SHAD program. I spent the month of July living in the residence building at the university, and attending a wide variety of lectures, seminars and field trips. There were lectures ranging from film analysis to the physics of the ice caps, and especially interesting seminars from the engineering department at the university. While at the times the rigorous university-esque classes became monotonous and boring, the weekend trips did not. Each weekend we went out and enjoyed the town of St. Johns and the nature surrounding it. Our weekend journey to an estranged Island off the north of St. Johns – Fogo Island – was unbelievable, as the town retains many of it’s core traditional values and customs from when European settlers first landed there. Though I spend a month effectively without sun in an overly structured program, going to SHAD in Newfoundland was a great experience and one I will remember as a great adventure to Canada’s other coast.

Sophia went to a Me to We Leadership Camp in Nova Scotia


To All Leaders….

The dictionary defines a leader as someone who directs or commands a group of people, but if that is the case then how is a leader different from a dictator. The difference is that a leader empowers. This summer, I spent 8 days at a Me to We Leadership Camp in Nova Scotia. I expected a classroom setting, where we would learn from the facilitators and get lectured on how important it is to improve our speaking and teamwork skills, but I was far from right. The facilitators taught us the power of vulnerability. How vulnerability connects people and creates an environment where people are able to learn from each other and their stories. Vulnerability is powerful because it is inspiring. The people I met at camp redefined my definition of “family”. As cheesy as it may sound, they taught me that family means unconditional love. Blood is irrelevant. Your family are the people who you can open up to and who push you to be your best, so you can become the person you know you are. Vulnerability is the only way to create that true family bond, because when someone is vulnerable, you see them in a different light. You see the fighter in them and it gives you a whole new sense of respect for them. Vulnerability opens your eyes to the reality that everyone is fighting a battle. By telling your own story, others feel like they can tell theirs and pretty soon, a bond is created. Words do have power, and too often we expect things to get resolved without speaking up because of the fear that no one will back us up. That is why leaders exists, to help others take that thing that holds them down and use it to push them up and keep fighting. Vulnerability makes us feel and we need to feel more because when we do, we find what we stand for. After all when you stand for nothing, you fall for everything. So how do leaders empower others? I remember at camp we did an activity where we sat in a circle facing outwards with our eyes closed. The facilitators would chose a few people by tapping them on the head and then the facilitators would ask them to touch the back of someone who they felt fit the criteria of the statement. For example they would say things such as, “touch the back of someone who has made an impact on your life” or “touch the back of someone who you genuinely believe will change the world”. This activity made everyone cry. The facilitators then asked “why do you think that activity made everyone so emotional?”. I realized it was because so often we are told what we can’t do or what we should do. So much so, that we start believing it and so we suppress our dreams and our passions and just settle for what is safe. Having someone acknowledge your potential and tell you “you can”, means a lot. Acknowledging someone else’s potential, makes it easier for them to acknowledge their own and acknowledge others. My point is that standing in front of a group of people and telling them what to do does not make anyone a leader. It makes them a dictator. Leaders inspire and empower others. They find the light, the passion, in others that is so suppressed by the fear of failure and the limitations others put on us. Inspiration is so important because it is what makes us want to be our best and do our best. To inspire someone is to breathe life into them. You become a leader by telling your own story and then helping others tell theirs by motivating and creating a safe environment. A friend once told me that writing a song is, “1% structure but 99% inspiration”. Life is pretty similar, you write your song but you need inspiration to write it. That is why a leader’s job is to inspire, so others can write their song and not get caught singing someone else’s song.

Bryce biked across the USA to raise money.


This summer I biked across the country to raise money for the American Legions Operation Comfort Warriors. I had wanted to bike across the country for a long time because I enjoy cycling and travel, so after getting the idea from another group I put my own trip together. I managed to get four companions to go with me and we rode from Astoria, OR to New York City, NY over the course of two months. We pedaled across 11 states, raising a grand total of $20,000 for OCW. Each rider only had to pay about $1,500 out of their own pockets to go on the trip. We mostly stayed in people’s homes, camped, or stayed in hotels when other people offered the accommodations to us. It took me about a year and a half to put the trip together.

Sarah went to New Zealand to row….and sky dive!


This summer I got to opportunity to learn more about the sport I love. I got to travel all the way to New Zealand for 5 weeks to train for rowing with 9 other athletes from around the world. The training was hard, to say the least. We trained 2-3 times a day 6 days a week at the Otago University Boat Club and the New Zealand High Performance Training Centre. Along with the training we got to travel around the country a bit. The fourth week we were in NZ we took a road trip up to Queenstown. Not only did I knock 20 seconds off my 2k personal best, I also faced my fear of heights and checked Sky Diving off my bucket list. Two of my friends  and I decided that we were going to go skydiving the day after we arrived in Queenstown. It was the most amazing experience, free falling for about a minute then slowly floating towards the open field where the plane had taken off a few minutes before. After we got back to our hostel we told our coach about our experience and he shared a quote with us that I now use as my ‘life motto’.

I would rather be a “glad I did”, than a “wish I had.” 

Tristan and Silke went to South Africa and service was a focus of the trip.

silke3Isiaiah 54 Children’s Sanctuary, Durban

I spent a week at this organization that houses approximately 18 children varying from 3 months old, to 18 years old. The house is run by one “mother” named Glynnis, and 3 “aunties” who work full time at the house. The Children’s Sanctuary welcomes any volunteers as well – there was a girl from Duke University on a cultural immersion and a couple from the Netherlands who were helping paint their preschool while I was there. The house is quite small to house 18 children, and they receive no government funding, only donations I believe. The work I did was mostly feeding, doing homework, and playing with the kids to allow the aunties to be able to work during the day.

Gift of the Givers, Headquarters and Warehouse, Pietermaritzburg

I also had the great pleasure to visit the Gift of the Givers Headquarters and Warehouse in Pietermaritzburg for a day. This is the largest disaster response NGO in Africa and they receive many donations worldwide in order to provide relief to wherever is needed in the world. As well as providing immediate relief to disaster struck areas, the volunteers help with long term sustainability efforts. As stated on their website, “entrepreneurship, job creation, bursaries, mosquito nets, blankets, clinics, counselling and life skills services are all facets of our expanding activities.” My family and I got a tour of their headquarters, as well as their warehouse in Pietermaritzburg, although they have many offices all over Africa.

The following day, we also go to help in one of their local missions at a rural school where they fed more than 600 children, and gave them care packages.

West Rand Lutheran Community Church and associated children’s home/orphanage

This was the orphanage in association to my aunt’s church, and similar to the Isiaiah 54 Children’s Sanctuary, I was needed to play with the children, especially two visually impaired children and help with any left over homework for the kids.

My brother and I gave an impromptu talk at the University of Kwazulu-Natal to first year teachers in training about our experience of the Canadian education system.

I had a fantastic time in South Africa, and learned a lot about the workings of charity and relief organizations in Africa.

Sena, Robert, Becca, Sara, Delphine went to Quebec


During the month of July, five students from SMUS participated in a French exchange program called EXPLORE. Specifically, it is an intense five-week French immersion bursary program offered during the spring and summer, and is open to students 16 and above. Most of the expenses are covered. All five of us ended up at the same location – Cégep de Trois-Rivières. Trois-Rivières is a small city located at the confluence of the Saint-Maurice and Saint Lawrence Rivers. The majority of the population spoke only French, which made everything very realistic. We shared an apartment suite with two roommates. Firstly, we took a pre-test to examine our proficiency level to be placed into different classes. A typical day consisted of three hours of class, two hours of workshops, one hour of sociocultural activities, and the evenings were usually free with choices of activities to participate in. The weekends were filled with trips such as camping, going to the waterpark or zoo, go carting, etc… At the end of the course, we had to take a post-test to assess our progress after the five weeks. The program was a life changing experience where I made new friendships and really involved myself in the French culture and language. For those who want to spend time surrounded by the beautiful French language, I highly recommend this program!

Tyne and Amanda went to the Lilith Young Leaders Program in Squamish

Amanda and Tyne participated in the Lilith Young Leaders program at Quest University and joined 30 other inspiring female high school  students  this August. During the six day leadership summit, which was co-chaired by Becky Anderson, SMUS Director of Leadership Development, the young women heard from top professional leaders and engaging topic specialists. As part of the program, they will continue to work with mentors to broaden and deepen their knowledge about the working world and larger community.


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