Thursday 31 October 2019

Student Leadership Experience

Submitted by: Kori  Kissinger, HPEC Student Leadership Grant Recipient

On September 24th to September 27th of this year, the Saskatchewan Physical Education Association hosted a Student Leadership Experience at Dallas Valley Ranch in Lumsden Saskatchewan. The goal of this annual conference is to teach students about leadership and what exactly it means to be a leader. Students are challenged emotionally, physically, mentally and socially during the week in order to grow and learn more about themselves. Each year, students participate in physical challenges and view presentations that will challenge what they know about leadership. Throughout this experience students are grouped with mentors who guide them through the week, sharing their knowledge, guidance and support.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the conference this year. Working with students and leaders from across Canada, I was challenged to take a look at the kind of leader I want to be. I was pushed to work with individuals I had never met in order to accomplish common goals. This atmosphere took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to look at myself as a leader. On the first night, we were immediately split up into groups with students from a variety of universities. Being separated from my group of friends immediately pushed me to communicate with new individuals and build quick relationships. In these groups we were asked to complete challenges on high rope and low rope courses. We were also asked to go canoeing as a group, where some of us were challenged to paddle and work together while blindfolded. Once in the middle of the pond, those of us who were blindfolded were asked to put our trust in the group to guide us as we switched canoes with another blindfolded individual. By the end of this experience I had put my trust in complete strangers, jumped off a 15-foot log, and gained the confidence to lead a group through a variety of tasks.

 The conference also provided opportunity to hear presentations from many experienced leaders who joined us from across Canada. Reg Leidl, Andrea Ward, and Stu Robbins inspired and engaged us all with their stories and years of experience. Each of these mentors provided hour long presentations where they told us about their experience as teachers and administrators. Each speaker brought with them a unique history and various stories to help illustrate what being a leader means to them. Further, we had the opportunity to listen to four other speakers in a casual setting around the campfire. Jen Buettner, Darla Armstrong, Justin Oliver, and Lisa Manzini opened up to us as a group to share their stories. They were asked to present when they were first seen as a leader, what their biggest struggle has been, and one piece of advice for us students moving forward. Their vulnerability and honesty was incredibly inspiring and meant so much to myself and many others in the room.

After attending the Student Leadership Experience, I only wish that I had known about it sooner. If I had known about this conference, there is no doubt that I would have been attending it for the past four years. I would highly recommend this experience to any students looking to learn more about themselves and leadership. It is a great place to create connections and network with educators all across Canada. I have learned so much from this experience that I would never have got sitting in a classroom. I will use the advice and stories I heard throughout the week to help guide and inspire me as I grow into the leader I want to be.