Afri­can aid pro­ject at­tracts im­pres­sive at­ten­tion

Stu­dents get face time with bu­si­ness lea­ders

L'Etoile - - IN OTHER WORDS -

Louise Cle­ments was sur­roun­ded by stu­dents fromWest­wood Sr. High School last week when tal­king about how to ef­fec­ti­ve­ly spread the word about an Afri­can school pro­ject.

And if anyone knows how to net­work, it’s Cle­ments. Head of sales for Fa­ce­book Ca­na­da, Cle­ments was one of four bu­si­ness people to at­tend a one night student lea­der­ship work­shop fo­cu­sing on West­wood’s Bridge to Bu­run­di pro­ject.

The bu­si­ness people - some flew in for the event from To­ron­to, or Van­cou­ver, while others came from Montreal - were there to share their bu­si­ness sav­vy with stu­dents.

But it was of­ten the VPs and CEOs who were im­pres­sed.

The kids have for­med a re­gis­te­red non­pro­fit or­ga­ni­za­tion and are rai­sing mo­ney to build - at a cost of about $10,000 per room - a six room school house in the Afri­can vil­lage of Rwo­ga, lo­ca­ted in Bu­run­di.

So far, their mo­ney has built one com­plete room and fun­ded half of a se­cond.

Both are ex­pec­ted to open to 80 ele­men­ta­ry stu­dents next Sep­tem­ber.

Pas­sing it on

Steve All­men, VP of Bu­si­ness De­ve­lop­ment for Aeroplan Ca­na­da, ad­mit­ted he was ‘‘blown away’’ by the stu­dents.

‘‘Most teens I know play vi­deo games and eat ce­real all day,’’ he said.

All­men ad­vi­sed the stu­dents about net­wor­king and crea­ting loyal­ty contacts. He al­so stres­sed the im­por­tance of paying it for­ward by sha­ring their pas­sion with youn­ger stu­dents.

They look up to you and will want to be like you, he no­ted.

ScottWal­ker, pre­sident & C.E.O. of The Wal­ker Group, a com­pa­ny that pro­vides niche pro­ducts like in­su­rance pro­grams and go­ver­nance ser­vices to such com­pa­nies as Ame­ri­can Ex­press, Toyo­ta, Lexus, and Whirl­pool, told stu­dents his door would al­ways be open.

‘‘The beau­ty of this is that you guys are doing all of this your­selves, so we’re just here to help you help your­selves,’’ Wal­ker, who is al­so head of the Young Pre­si­dents Or­ga­ni­za­tion, said.

In ad­di­tion, Wal­ker Group bu­si­ness de­ve­lop­ment ma­na­ger Jean Poi­rier sha­red his know­ledge du­ring the camp that took place at the Hud­son Com­mu­ni­ty Centre.

Stu­dents, who paid $50 to at­tend the night, la­ter slept at their high school where they played games like fla­sh­light tag in the emp­ty cor­ri­dors.

Big­ger than ex­pec­ted

Student Lind­say Peets ad­mit­ted the pro­ject had grown lar­ger than anyone ex­pec­ted.

‘‘When we first thought of (get­ting) cor­po­rate spon­sors, we were thin­king about lo­cal stores and bu­si­nesses,’’ she said.

And while they wel­come all forms of aid, she ad­mits the high-pro­file men­to­ring has stu­dents thin­king big.

‘‘We can real­ly do this and make a huge dif­fe­rence along the way.’’

West­wood tea­cher Dave Ben­well hopes the ex­pert ad­vice will help stu­dents perfect a pro­ject pre­sen­ta­tion they’re ex­pec­ted to make next month to the Ca­na­dian In­ter­na­tio­nal De­ve­lop­ment Agen­cy in Ottawa.

CI­DA fun­ding could go a long way to­ward hel­ping them rea­lize their goals. A small group of stu­dents are ex­pec­ted to make the pitch and it is be­lie­ved this will be the first time the de­ve­lop­ment agen­cy will hear a pre­sen­ta­tion from stu­dents.

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