Cat­a­pult Lead­er­ship Camp in­spires

Mon­go­lian del­e­ga­tion has life chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at Wolfville’s Aca­dia Univer­sity


It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence that has helped shape Nova Sco­tia’s fu­ture lead­ers for the past decade and now lessons shared will be im­pact­ing com­mu­ni­ties half a world away.

Cat­a­pult Lead­er­ship So­ci­ety ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Lori Barker said the Cat­a­pult Lead­er­ship Camp, held an­nu­ally at Wolfville’s Aca­dia Univer­sity, is aimed at stu­dents with nat­u­ral lead­er­ship qual­i­ties who have lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties due to any num­ber of bar­ri­ers.

The camp, which is free of charge, pro­vides op­por­tu­ni­ties for 50 fu­ture lead­ers to de­velop skills. This year’s camp was held from Aug. 17- 24. Par­tic­i­pants, Nova Sco­tian stu­dents who are about to en­ter Grade 10, are nom­i­nated by ed­u­ca­tors or by or­ga­ni­za­tions that work with stu­dents in Grade 9. How­ever, a del­e­ga­tion from Mon­go­lia that at­tended this year’s camp was an ex­cep­tion.

They were spon­sored by Dart­mouth-based Er­dene Re­source De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, a min­ing ex­plo­ration com­pany with a fo­cus on Mon­go­lia and Cat­a­pult’s found­ing spon­sor. The del­e­ga­tion in­cluded Yan­j­maa Jut­maan, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mitchell Foun­da­tion, and stu­dents Bi­leg­jar­gal Narankhun and Dash­nyam Khu­dree, who are 16 and 15 years old ,re­spec­tively.

The Mon­go­lian del­e­gates want to adapt Cat­a­pult’s model to em­power and teach lead­er­ship skills to stu­dents in Mon­go­lia.

A life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

Narankhun said that he loves Canada and the Cat­a­pult ex­pe­ri­ence was “amaz­ing, start to fin­ish.” There was a com­pe­ti­tion for the two spots for Mon­go­lian stu­dents and about 300 ap­plied. They had to write a 250-word es­say on the topic of lead­er­ship and go through an in­ter­view process. Narankhun wrote a 500-word es­say.

Although he came out on top, he said he was “scratch­ing his head” think­ing about what to say and he now re­al­izes that it takes more than strength, con­fi­dence and dis­ci­pline to be a good leader.

“If I made that es­say right now, I would have made a lot bet­ter es­say with more im­por­tant facts and ex­pe­ri­ences, over­all a much bet­ter es­say,” he said.

Narankhun said he en­joyed the nightly “fam­ily share” group ses­sions. He got to meet amaz­ing peo­ple and make great friends. Narankhun can brag when he gets home that he met and played bas­ket­ball with Will Njoku of NBA fame and he got to meet “the great mu­si­cian”, Terry Kelly. Njoku and Kelly were among the guest pre­sen­ters at the camp.

Khu­dree said the Cat­a­pult ex­pe­ri­ence was “phe­nom­e­nal” and he was im­pressed with the sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment. Be­fore par­tic­i­pat­ing, he thought the pro­gram would in­volve hang­ing out and play­ing a few games but this wasn’t the case.

“Five or six years ago, I had a goal to con­quer the world. I didn’t really Cat­a­pult Lead­er­ship So­ci­ety ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Lori Barker, left, with mem­bers of a del­e­ga­tion from Mon­go­lia that at­tended the Cat­a­pult Lead­er­ship Camp. The del­e­ga­tion in­cluded stu­dents Dash­nyam Khu­dree and Bi­leg­jar­gal Narankhun and Yan­j­maa Jut­maan, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mitchell Foun­da­tion.

know how, I didn’t have any lead­er­ship skills,” he said. “But now, af­ter this, I have a feel­ing I can con­quer the world.”

He found the peo­ple in Canada really nice and was im­pressed when a stranger in a cafe­te­ria of­fered him a green tea, which he loves. Peo­ple here are pas­sion­ate about help­ing oth­ers and Khu­dree said you don’t really get this any­where else in the world.

He said the staff at Cat­a­pult cared for the par­tic­i­pants and helped them. Any­one who has the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the Cat­a­pult pro­gram should take it.

“Every­one I’ve known was emo­tional just be­cause the staff was there for them,” Khu­dree said. “Some­times their par­ents, their fam­ily mem­bers, their own broth­ers and sis­ters aren’t there for them but the staff mem­bers were like our fam­ily.”

Although he is sad to see the lead­er­ship camp end, Khu­dree has been in­spired and filled with con­fi­dence. He has set the goal of one day re­turn­ing as a pro­gram coun­sel­lor “to give chil­dren the same ex­pe­ri­ence I had this year for many years.”

“This camp will change your life, it will change your per­spec­tive about ev­ery­thing,” Khu­dree said.

One such life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was be­ing ex­posed to Aca­dia’s S.M.I.L.E. (Sen­sory Mo­tor In­struc­tional Lead­er­ship Ex­pe­ri­ence) pro­gram. He was part­nered with Matthew, who Khu­dree de­scribed as “the kind­est, soft­est kid I’ve ever met” and who helped Khu­dree find a deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the fact that we are all equal.

Jut­maan, a se­nior ad­vi­sor to the Par­lia­ment of Mon­go­lia, was nom­i­nated to at­tend by Mon­go­lia MP Un­draa Ag­vaan­lu­vsan and went through the staff train­ing process. She said they don’t have a lead­er­ship camp sim­i­lar to Cat­a­pult in Mon­go­lia and it would be chal­leng­ing to repli­cate the ex­pe­ri­ence, which is “ex­cep­tional.”

“I was not only just an ob­server to staff, I was like a camper here,” Jut­maan said. “I did all the ac­tiv­i­ties that the youth did and it was really not only fun, it was emo­tional, too.”

She said the camp was planned beau­ti­fully. The staff cares about and works with each stu­dent, rec­og­niz­ing in­di­vid­ual strengths and tai­lor­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to them. She was pleased that they took an in-

ter­est in un­der­stand­ing Mon­go­lian cul­ture.

Jut­maan said the ex­pe­ri­ence

also in­cluded in­spi­ra­tional lec­tures and the camp’s bound­ary break­ing ex­er­cises take you into un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory emo­tion­ally. She said this can be dif­fi­cult but “that’s how the leader grows.”

Adding to di­ver­sity

Barker said hav­ing the Mon­go­lian del­e­gates take part added to the di­ver­sity of the camp and helped in­tro­duce the Nova Sco­tian par­tic­i­pants to an­other cul­ture.

Stu­dents at the camp have their phones taken from them and Barker said, “they ac­tu­ally form some pretty deep re­la­tion­ships while they’re here.”

“It really is a fam­ily of support,” Barker said. “Th­ese stu­dents leave with a net­work of peers that they know they can lean on.”

Cat­a­pult founder and chair­woman Jane Roy said the pro­gram is em­pow­er­ing stu­dent lead­ers while shap­ing a com­mu­nity con­science that will pro­vide lead­er­ship in com­mu­ni­ties across Nova Sco­tia — and be­yond.

“It is an hon­our to share the heart and soul of Cat­a­pult with other in­cred­i­ble youth from the op­po­site side of the world,” Roy said. “What a per­fect way to cel­e­brate our 10-year an­niver­sary.”


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