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Leadership forum brings students to Kelowna from across B.C.

Some 281 students to attend Oct. 19-21 event hosted by Rutland Secondary School

Recharge, reconnect, reimagine.

Those themes will be explored among students from across the province attending the leadership conference being hosted from Oct. 19 to 21 by Rutland Secondary School.

Some 281 Grade 6 to 12 students will converge on RSS for the conference, with 150 of the participants coming from the Central Okanagan School District.

A large contingent this year will come from Fraser Valley schools, and as far away as Fort Nelson in northern B.C.

It is the first conference held since the 2019 event in Williams Lake due to public health concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and is the first such event in Western Canada in the post-pandemic era.

Speaking to the Central Okanagan Board of Education on Wednesday (Oct. 11), organizers said there was a bit of an unpredictability risk staging the event due to COVID concerns, but students, teachers and administration staff have been working on organizing the conference for two years.

More than 16 sponsors, from Save-On-Foods to KF Aerospace, have been recruited to support the event.

Their efforts have led to a four-day agenda with forums focused on how students can become leaders in their school community and take those skills forward into the world after graduation.

Guest speakers lined up include Kevin Lamoureux, a leading development speaker and teacher on groundbreaking mentorship and inclusion programs in Manitoba along with governance models within Aboriginal education; motivation speaker Tei Street; Sam Demma, an author and keynote speaker focused on helping students and schools cultivate hope, service and self-belief; and Allison Price, a passionate speaker about community and innovation.

Eli Ebl, who was joined by his Grade 12 RSS classmate Katrina Graham, in making a presentation about the conference to the trustees, recounted how the William Lake conference which he attended made a significant impression on him.

Ebl said he came away motivated about how leadership can be about more than hope for change, but actually how change for the better can become reality and how a community can come together to make that happen.

Ryan Wakefield, vice-principal of George Elliot Secondary in Lake Country, was part of the presentation group, along with RSS teachers Lindsay Reynoldson and Jackie Groat.

Wakefield said organizing the conference is a monumental task for the students involved, and speaks loudly about their commitment to be difference makers.

“The province is in good hands,” he said, speaking to the high motivation level of students currently graduating from the public school system.

Trustee Valene Johnson said her son Zach, who graduated in June, also attended the Williams Lake leadership conference and spoke highly about the impact it had on him, and how the community pulled together from numerous directions to stage the conference.

Trustee Wayne Broughton also cited the Indigenous education element to the upcoming conference, a reflection of how students are embracing the philosophy behind Truth and Reconciliation and making it part of the education reality that they will carry forward as adults.

Terry-Lee Beaudry, deputy superintendent of Okanagan Public Schools, said taking on the challenge of organizing a leadership conference of this magnitude speaks to their passion and imagination.

“You are doing this,” she emphasized to the students at the meeting with the school district prepared to support their efforts wherever needed.

She added that students reflect leadership in many different ways, often through activities they are involved in outside of the classroom, from sports to the arts to club activities.

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Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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