All students, especially those who are new to a school, will have moments when they feel like they don’t belong. Part of what helped me when I went to school was participating in as many groups as I could. When I didn’t feel like I belonged, I looked for spaces where there were people focussing on concerns, issues or topics that I also was interested in. In order for this to work well, you have to do two things: first, you have to get used to being the ‘New Kid’ and become a master of impression management in new groups; second, you must be very self aware! Self awareness is key, so that you are able to know yourself well enough to be put in these new and sometimes uncomfortable situations where you can learn the most. Once you learn what you need to learn, it becomes your responsibility to ensure that the next new kid to come to the group feels welcome too.
Recipe for High School Leadership
I would like to share with you some of the activities I involved myself with while I was in high school that really helped me develop my leadership potential, and my confidence to be in uncomfortable places, while still looking for the solution or the lesson that could be taken away and applied later, to life.
- Army Cadets: I was a part of army cadets from the time I was 12, until I was 18 and I credit this organization and opportunity with helping me to develop my confidence in terms of
- Student Council: I began participating in Student Council when I lived in Dryden Ontario for a year, with The Shack Youth Centre. When I went to St John’s High School, I began in Grade nine as an alternate to the Secretary position. By my graduating year, I was the Co-President of the Student Council, it was the first time the school had co-presidents instead of a President and Vice-President.
- Staff Student Finance Committee: This was a weird one. I had the opportunity to look at the budgets of the school and give feedback around what students felt was important to be included. I didn’t know anything about budgeting, and the learning was huge.
- School Resource Officers Committee: In grade nine, I was able to participate in the SRO committee where we discussed the merits of having a Winnipeg Police Officer, in the school building relationships with students. I was very vocal about the tension that exists, and I felt like we need to engage with officers when they aren’t ‘enforcing the law’ in a forceful way in order to build trust with the students
- Youth Parliament of Manitoba: For 2 years, I got to be a part of YPM as a back bencher. It is an opportunity over winter break to go tot he MB Legislature, participate in mock debates, legislation development and other capacity building opportunities around political literacy.
- Manitoba ALIVE: A Leadership Initiative in Volunteer Efforts was an opportunity in grade eleven and twelve that allowed me to connect with other leadership/volunteer oriented students from across the city. It was very emotional and led me to the understanding that we must speak to one another’s hearts more than we speak to their minds.
Can’t Find a Group? Start Your Own!
One of the things that I have learned is that if you cannot find what you are looking for – sometimes you have to create it. In 2008 I was looking for a way to describe the way urban indigenous youth were being engaged, in a relationship based way, and so ARROWS Youth Engagement Strategy was created to fill that gap. In 2010, when I was yearning for a place to put my energy and love for the youth in my community, we created AYO! Aboriginal Youth Opportunities. Since then, there have been so many groups that have been created to make space for us to focus on what we collectively feel are important challenges and solutions. There are groups now like Fearless R2W focussing on child welfare and creating strong families, Red Rising the title of an indigenous themed zine project and the Our Summit collective, a group of multi cultural young people who are looking at creative ways to address racism in Winnipeg. If the group you feel you need to be a part of doesn’t exist yet, don’t be afraid of creating it.
In The Photo: I was walking downtown, and I saw this metal thing sticking out of the ground that looked like a turtle shell. Upon closer inspection, I saw there were some leaves and rocks in the immediate area that almost made it look like a turtle. I wanted to share this image with this post on , because I wasn’t looking for a turtle downtown (represents the teaching of truth)