Student Leadership Camp for students at Mary Street Community School is taking kids to new heights.
The camp ran November 27-28 at the Education Centre and was designed to empower students to build and exhibit leadership skills in the school and surrounding community. Thirty Grades 4-8 students were organized into groups to carry out tasks to work on Community Outreach, Equity and Well-Being, School Intramurals and School Spirit and Eco-Team. School Educational Assistants and Teachers facilitated and supported the sessions providing feedback and direction.
"This Student Leadership Camp is all about creating a space where students can 'step' into their leadership," said Justin Abdelkerim, Principal at Mary Street Community School.
"Leaders build other leaders. It is not easy. Students at camp learned it requires hard work, focus, and at times the need to be the 'first follower,' a powerful role, validating the ideas of the leader. Without the first follower, then all the potential leader has are ideas that go nowhere," said Abdelkerim.
Students explored the ideas of the seven habits of highly effective people and explored: how to create change; be self-care/self-aware; the power of the first follower; the importance of working hard and overcoming challenges; conflict resolution; and the need to shed the labels others put on them. School staff reflected on famous social justice leaders and quotes attributed to them, while also examining many successful people with learning disabilities.
Colby, a Grade 7 student at Mary Street Community School who attended the Student Leadership Camp, said he was glad to be there as he didn't want to miss out on an opportunity that can help teach him how to help other people.
Fellow camper and Grade 7 classmate Chaya, a student who immigrated to the school from the Caribbean, agrees with Colby. "I didn't want to miss out on something that I know would be productive. The camp is teaching us how to be better people," says Chaya, who chose Equity and Well-Being as her Tasks to work on while at the camp.
Chaya is glad to be at her new school as she sees it as a positive environment. "It's a really welcoming non-judgemental zone, where you can be open with your feelings, ideas and expectations. And if you need help with anything, you can simply ask, there will be no judging, no discrimination. I find that's needed because it's vital for a healthy environment," says Chaya.
Staff supporting the event were inspired by what they saw in their student leaders. "This week I witnessed some incredible young people step up, take chances and approach new experiences with bravery, kind hearts, and open minds. I feel honoured to support the passion of our kids as they step empowered into their leadership," said Mary Street Community School Teacher, Erin McGowan. "The depth, integrity, and compassion of these young leaders make me proud to be a teacher here."
Katie Zeppieri, CEO of Make Your Mark Movement, also spoke with the students, inspiring them to continue on their road to create change.