Over 1,000 student leaders from across the country came to Abbotsford’s Yale Secondary School this week for the 35th annual Canadian Student Leadership Conference.
The CSLC is the most established national conference for high school students in the country. Abbotsford’s efforts to host have been two years in the making, says teacher and event co-chair Doug Primrose.
“I’ve been going to this conference for 10, 11 years, and it’s just so amazing to see how changed the kids come back from it are,” he said. “I always thought it would be so awesome to host it in Abbotsford one day. It seemed like a huge monumental task but we put together a good team.”
This year’s theme is “Empowering Inner Resources.”
The five-day conference started on Tuesday and features Canadian keynote speakers, student workshops, and a trade show among the many team-building events for attendees.
Schools across Canada have a select amount of spots open for student leaders who get invitations through essay writing, teacher recommendation or their work through community organizations.
The workshops allow students to share good local ideas with the intention of spreading what works at home throughout the country.
Brady Guessner, a high school senior from Winnipeg, was invited through his work in a organization called the Rocky View Leadership Academy, which brings together youth to work on community projects.
“Maybe a school in Newfoundland has something they do really well at their school. Well, all these workshops bring everyone together and maybe that [something] can be brought all the way over to B.C,” he said. “It’s just really cool to see lots of other students who are trying to do better for the world.”
Primrose said the conference’s vision is about two things – empowerment and inspiration. Students are meant to attain the self-esteem needed to make positive change in their communities and armed with the ideas to achieve them.
Grade 12 Newfoundland and Labrador student Kianna Biloki-Norman said the workshops and speakers are having an positive effect on her.
“I know I’m taking in a lot of information I can bring to my school and hopefully help and make everyone feel safe and welcome,” she said.
Terry Fox’s brother, Fred, was the keynote speaker Thursday morning and spoke about Terry’s determination through his battle with cancer. He said seeing students in a leadership role is inspirational in itself.
“These young kids are leaders in their communities, leaders in their schools and have probably been learning about charities since they were small,” Fox said.
“It’s students like them that lead Terry Fox events. They organize them, they fundraise for them and it’s amazing.”
Fred said he is happy his brother’s story can still serve as inspiration 19 years after his death.
“You don’t have to be the smartest person in class. With a little bit of hard work and that never-give-up attitude you can accomplish anything you want.”
Other keynote speakers for the event are Romeo Dallaire, Spencer West, Angus Reid and Heather Moyae.
The event concludes on Saturday with the delegates performing community service such as helping out at the food bank and cleaning local parks.