The Ontario Center for Education Leadership brought its brand of youth leadership training to Northwestern Ontario for the first time, with over 140 students from the region participating.
THUNDER BAY – The old adage that young people are the future is taken very seriously by the Ontario Center for Education Leadership.
After teaching leadership skills to students in southern Ontario for more than 60 years, the organization announced that it will now bring those lessons to the northwest.
“If we don’t teach them to be leaders, what will our society look like? asked Chris Wilson, program director at the OELC. “Being able to help these leaders, and they’re already leaders, we’re just helping in that process by helping them become better leaders and better people.”
More than 140 young people from Northwestern Ontario participated in the OELC Youth Leadership Program at Fort William Historical Park this month.
In partnership with the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, this is the first time OELC has been able to bring programs to the area.
According to Wilson, the COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for the program, which led to the decision to bring programming to students here, rather than requiring them to travel to southern Ontario.
“With the COVID protocol and the inability to bring us students, we started looking at other options,” he said. “We decided rural areas were a good place to go, because often they don’t come to us.”
Jarod Milko, experiential learning manager for the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, said having the program offered in Thunder Bay has made a huge difference in students’ ability to participate.
“One of the biggest hurdles for us in the North is transportation,” he said. “It’s very expensive to go to programs in southern Ontario or even just outside of our communities. So we couldn’t bring the numbers to programs like OELC. Now with OELC there, they can come to us, we can bring a lot more kids and that lowers the barrier.”
Throughout September, six OELC Youth Leadership Programs took place across Ontario, with high school students participating in the four-day program in Thunder Bay this week and middle school students next week. .
Students from Kenora, Red Lake, Ear Falls, Vermilion Bay, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, Ignace, Pickle Lake and Upsala participated in activities that teach important leadership skills including confidence, communication and time management .
Wilson said it’s important to have student representation from as many communities as possible.
“Having representation from all the different areas allows all areas to have someone coming back with a voice that can make a difference,” he said. “Part of what we’re doing here is trying to help them understand what they can do in their own field.”
For Alyson Pap and Ethan Curtis, two high school students from Dryden, the leadership program provided the skills they needed to become more effective leaders in their community.
“It’s been amazing,” Pap said. “It’s amazing to see everyone. You know some people are more shy and not as outgoing or confident, but you see them grow into super amazing people. You see how everyone shows they’re a leader in their own way, and it was amazing to see everyone become that type of person.
“This program allowed me to come out of that shell and become more outgoing,” Curtis added. “It really allowed me to grow in that aspect of my personality.”
Milko agrees, saying all students who participate in the program leave with more confidence.
“I think the biggest benefit of this program is that it creates leaders, which is really important for solving small to large problems in our communities, but they also pave the way for new ideas,” he said. -he declares. “I can think of no better investment in our communities than in leadership. Leadership is the first thing we should invest in our young people.
Wilson said he hopes the OELC will be able to make the youth leadership program an annual event in the North West.
Both Pap and Curtis hope to see him return and encourage other young people to participate in the future.
“I would tell them to do it,” Pap said. “If they’re invited to come to one, don’t even ask, just do it. The opportunity itself is so amazing.
“The things you do here and the friends you meet, the bonds you make and the memories you make will stay here for the rest of your life,” Curtis added.