FORTUNE, N.L. — Lake Academy in Fortune was a busy place June 2 as students from six Burin Peninsula towns gathered to participate in a youth leadership conference.
The conference, sponsored by Lake Academy in partnership with the Grand Bank Community Youth Network (CYN), hosted 150 grade 4-7 students from Rushoon, Marystown, Burin, St. Lawrence, Lawn and Fortune.
Following a pump-up session in the morning, students attended individual sessions throughout the day, where they learned about themselves, about cooperation, leadership and decision making.
They were impressed with the overall experience.
“I enjoyed it a lot today,” noted Lake Academy student Erin Bungay. “It was fun hanging out with people I didn’t know before.
“I learned how to work with a team, how to co-operate with other students I didn’t even know.”
For other students it was about relaxing and enjoying themselves.
“I really enjoyed myself. I learned a lot about how to relax and do some fitness stuff,” noted Rayna Edwards from St. Lawrence.
Madison Perham, a student from Jamieson Academy, agreed.
“I really had a good day today at the conference. It was really relaxing, doing stuff like yoga,” she said. “I could forget all the stressing about exams that will be coming up soon.”
Perham added she learned a lot about co-operation and enjoyed making new friends.
Levi Curtis, a well-known theatre arts teacher on the Burin Peninsula and presently the artistic director of the Grand Bank Regional Theatre, set the tone for the day with a rousing pump-up session.
Curtis started by telling the students, “You are the best you that you are right now.”
“You are unique; there is no one else like you. Even if you have a twin brother or sister, there is nobody like you, so you be the best you that you can be right now,” he told the students.
Curtis then engaged the eager students in activities that required them to walk around, meet people they did not know and tell them a little about themselves as they attempted to find their fit in the group.
Students were then told to randomly form groups of 10, 25 or 40 and using their bodies they were told to build an object like a car, a house or a castle.
Curtis explained while the activities might appear to be a little chaotic, they all had a very important objective.
“When I told the students to build an object using their bodies, they all had to find their fit within the group and co-operate to build the car or castle. The whole idea is they had to work together to achieve this,” he explained.
“I tried to teach them leadership is not about being the boss and giving orders.
“It’s all about working together with a common purpose. There is no leadership through bullying. Leadership comes from cooperation, having a plan, putting it together and implementing it.”
Lake Academy guidance counselor Sherri Matthews said the conference aimed to support leadership, create networks, strengthen relationships among students and increase their confidence.
“I feel we have achieved that today,” said Matthews.
Equally as important, Matthews noted the conference was planned and executed by students who are involved with CYN and attended the Provincial Student Leadership Conference (PSLC) at John Burke High School in the fall along with some age volunteer peers.
“About 30 teenagers took on the lead roles of planning with Damian Stacey as chairperson,” she said.
Stacey explained his motivation.
“Our school (John Burke High School) hosted PSLC in the fall and when it was over, we felt our job wasn’t done,” he said. “Our guidance counselor, Ms. Matthews suggested we do it for the younger kids. So here we are today.”
Many of the student planners are members of the Grand Bank CYN, which became a co-sponsor of the conference. Debbie Forsey, executive director of Grand Bank CYN, was delighted to be part of the student conference.
“We did not hesitate to take this opportunity because a lot of our after school programming is geared toward this age group,” she said. “Any community event that engages and contributes to our youth’s positive development we are more than eager to help organize.”