Students Seek Their Potential at CAIS Leadership Conference

Sliding doors at the airport opened to reveal a group of cheering individuals waving signs. In a haze of initial confusion, we were immediately welcomed into the CAIS Leadership Conference family to Elevate our Purpose, Ability and Understanding (the leadership skills the conference focused on), inspired and able to Seek Our Summit (the theme of the conference).

A sea of colours — red, blue, green, yellow, purple, pink — greeted us with welcoming arms, as the SMUS group parted ways and each of us was swallowed by the colour of our pod group. I was surprised by the ease of making new friends and connections with the new people around me, as we had shared interests in sports, music, school, leadership and service. From exploring and completing group challenges in Banff beside the view of a beautiful, raging waterfall, to line dancing, yoga, and inspiring workshops, I had an amazing time at the CAIS Leadership Conference.

We drew yellow stripes across our faces with pride, and tied yellow bandanas on our wrists and heads in my group. Representing the Greek God Zeus, we were ready to work together as a team to win the Amazing Race. Besides mental challenges like solving riddles, we were dancing, singing, completing detective work, memorizing a poem, and climbing hills and stairs to further strengthen our team bond. Exhausted from a day of exploring Banff, my pod was on our last station before heading back to the finish line. Climbing up stairs on the last mountain peak was where we sought our summit. Just like how our legs shook from overcoming that last stair, it can be applied to one last test at school, the last point in a sports game, or the final note in music. With positive motivation and together as a team, we encouraged each other and repeated our CAIS cheer to manage that last step. It didn’t end in us winning the Amazing Race, but we had achieved the victory of staying together, and seeking and conquering our summit.

There were many opportunities presented at the conference to Elevate Our Understanding, but a speech given by Catriona Le May Doan inspired me. Having previously been named the fastest woman on ice, she became the first Canadian and only female Canadian to defend gold at an Olympic Games. Specializing in 500m speed skating, Ms. Le May Doan wasn’t born an Olympic champion. At her first Olympic Games, she had a vision of winning a medal to present to the people who had supported her through her dream. However, she fell and placed near the bottom. With mixed voices in her head encouraging her to quit or continue, Ms. Le May Doan persevered through her failure and had the courage to return to the Olympic Games. Her story Elevates Our Understanding of how dreams cause us to pursue our passions.

I learned to Elevate My Ability through the yoga and “Stress is a Force to be Reckoned With” workshops. Taking time to acknowledge daily stressors, we were presented with tactics to reduce stress by keeping schedules, easing muscle tension, and practicing relaxation exercises and breathing strategies. In yoga, we focused on taking moments of silence to ourselves and taking care of our bodies by loosening muscles and resting our minds. I learned that Elevating My Ability stems from self-awareness, and leads to the ability to help yourself and others.

Lastly, Elevating My Purpose came from various activities, keynote speakers and all areas of the conference. I know that my purpose will constantly change for specific tasks, but a main purpose is finding a passion and documenting goals to help reach the outcome. Through forming life-long connections and friendships, I learned the importance of shared ideas. By seeking a common purpose, every individual can further elevate his or her own purpose, understanding, ability — and ultimately — conquer the summit.

(photo by Becky Anderson)

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Madison is a Senior School student at St. Michaels University School.

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