On Friday, January 25, Grade 8 students from a dozen different schools on Vancouver Island and from the lower mainland congregated at SMUS for the Search YourSELFie conference. This annual leadership conference is one of the highlights of the Middle School year, as it’s a conference that is organized entirely by Grade 8 students for fellow Grade 8 students.
We sat down with one of the organizers (and event emcee) Neil P. to learn more about the Grade 8 leadership conference.
What was the theme of this year’s conference?
Our theme was ‘Raised in a Digital Age’. It’s about growing up with cell phones and the Internet and how they impact us. It took us quite a while to think of the theme, but this is one which effects our age group the most out of all the different issues at the moment. So, as we were planning it we thought about all the different aspects of being raised in a digital age – both the good and the bad – and then we found workshop facilitators who could create leadership activities for the students to learn from and keynote speakers who spoke about the same topic.
Why did you get involved as a conference organizer?
I thought it was a really amazing opportunity because it’s not like anything I’ve done before in terms of leadership opportunities. I thought that getting involved would help make me more responsible. With every step of the way, especially on the conference day itself, I feel like it put me in the shoes of what it’s like to be a teacher; taking responsibility for your jobs but also thinking about the other people and keeping them happy and making sure they’re learning from you. It was a great experience!
How did the conference go?
I think it went well! I was an emcee with Jamie so I got lots of experience in public speaking throughout the day. She and I both really enjoyed being emcees. The entire Lecture Theatre was full, from top to bottom, and to put smiles on people’s faces and exhibit leadership by being able to help people was really fun. I also think it was great for the people who came because there were so many schools and as we were walking around you could see people from different schools interacting and making friends with each other.
What did you learn about yourself as a leader from this experience?
I definitely improved my leadership skills over the course of the conference. I learned I’m more responsible than I thought I was. I liked that I was able to practice skills like public speaking, which is essential to being a leader, to broader skills like taking initiative. It felt like a real leadership opportunity where we all had jobs to do and we all had to take charge and were in control of certain things. I learned that it’s important to take initiative instead of waiting for someone else to say something or do something because a leader steps up.