An­nual Pal­liser lead­er­ship con­fer­ence be­comes re­gional in scope

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Alberta - BY CRAIG AL­BRECHT

With four years of stu­dent lead­er­ship con­fer­ences al­ready un­der its belt, auto pilot might have seemed an ob­vi­ous route as Pal­liser Re­gional Schools headed into its fifth.

In­stead, a sub­stan­tial de­par­ture from the usual flight plan saw the ini­tia­tive take on a truly re­gional scope, with more than 650 stu­dents from nine school ju­ris­dic­tions across south­ern Al­berta ben­e­fit­ting.

Ja­son Ku­pery, Pal­liser Di­rec­tor of Learn­ing, said it was a real plus to have more part­ners at the ta­ble and more thought on dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to teach stu­dents how to be ef­fec­tive lead­ers in their school and the larger com­mu­nity.

“Open­ing it up has forced us to look differently at how we en­gage our schools in lead­er­ship,” he said. “We brought it to this point, but now it’s time to change a lit­tle bit be­cause this is go­ing to be a re­gional con­fer­ence go­ing for­ward.”

In ad­di­tion to at­tend­ing break­out ses­sions de­signed by, and put on by fel­low stu­dents, they took part in hand­son ac­tiv­i­ties at a Well­ness Café this year. Ku­pery said that change, un­der the guid­ance of Al­berta Health Ser­vices, gave the event a dif­fer­ent dy­namic and flow.

The past few con­fer­ences saw Pal­liser in­vite Grade 7-12 stu­dents from a few other school dis­tricts to ob­serve. Greater par­tic­i­pa­tion by those stu­dents this year should help Pal­liser stu­dents ex­pand their hori­zons.

“We al­ways take a great deal of pride in Pal­liser in how in­clu­sive we are given the na­ture of our school di­vi­sion,” said Ku­pery. “But it was nice to open that up to an even broader per­spec­tive and it’s nice for stu­dents to work with peo­ple from other school divi­sions.”

Col­lab­o­ra­tion ?wasn’t limited to stu­dents, as new part­ners like the South­ern Al­berta Pro­fes­sional De­vel­op­ment Con­sor­tium ?stepped for­ward. Work­ing with oth­ers is an im­por­tant skill for to­day’s stu­dents, he said. They learn their opin­ions aren’t the only ones that mat­ter and that lead­ers have to lis­ten as well as speak out.

The theme of this year’s con­fer­ence was “You First: Lead­ing Your­self to Bet­ter Lead Oth­ers,” and the break­out ses­sions high­lighted ways to achieve well­ness, whether phys­i­cal or men­tal. Stu­dents learned they have to take care of them­selves be­fore they can ef­fec­tively lead oth­ers.

“It is im­por­tant for stu­dents to learn the skill of self care so that they are more ef­fec­tive and ca­pa­ble lead­ers in the fu­ture,” Ku­pery said.

The con­fer­ence, which was made pos­si­ble through the ma­jor spon­sor­ship of RBC Royal Bank and sup­port from KPMG Canada and the Univer­sity of Leth­bridge, opened with key­note speaker Monique Smith.

The youth men­tal health ther­a­pist told stu­dent-lead­ers they can’t ex­pect those fol­low­ing them to make good de­ci­sions if they’re mak­ing poor ones them­selves. She pro­vided them with strate­gies to stop re­act­ing and start think­ing dur­ing those tough mo­ments so they can re­spond in the ap­pro­pri­ate way.

“By do­ing this, we cre­ate a game plan to be in a bet­ter think­ing space,” said Smith.

The con­fer­ence closed with words by Cow­boy Smithx, an In­dige­nous film­maker from the Kainai Re­serve who told stu­dents they are the “an­ces­tors of the fu­ture.” That’s not some­thing they should take lightly, he added.

“Three thou­sand years from now, you are go­ing to be the an­cient ones. They will say ‘I am proud of what my an­ces­tors did and proud of the legacy that they carved out for me as a young per­son in a mod­ern, scary world.’ Or, they are go­ing to be dis­ap­pointed in you,” Smithx told them.

“Our an­ces­tors had a vi­sion for all of us,” he said, and that was to cre­ate a bet­ter com­mu­nity for each other. He urged them to take ac­tion and not waste time with things like hate and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“Any­thing you want to do, do it. Go get it. Go find it. Be­come it. Embrace it,” said Smithx.

Pal­liser Schools photos

Stu­dents check out a Well­ness Café booth pro­mot­ing Spir­i­tual Well­ness. The seven di­men­sions of well­ness were il­lus­trated through var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties at the lunch hour event, part of the stu­dent lead­er­ship con­fer­ence.

Teach­ers ush­ered stu­dents to break­out ses­sions in groups iden­ti­fied by var­i­ous world lead­ers, in­clud­ing Ma­hatma Gandhi.

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