It was a loud and enthusiastic kick-off Tuesday night for the 30th annual Canadian Student Leadership Conference in the auditorium of the Evangel Church in Kelowna.
Hosted by the Central Okanagan School District, the leadership conference brings students together from across Canada in Grades 8 to 12 for a five-day program of keynote speaker presentations, workshops and sharing of leadership experiences to help empower and inspire the delegates to make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of other Canadians.
While the conference bills the student participants as our future leaders, in her welcoming remarks to the more than 800 students, school board chair Moyra Baxter noted each of them are already leaders.
“I am wearing this VIP badge but here today you are the true VIPs,” Baxter said to thunderous applause.
Speaking on behalf of the City of Kelowna, Coun. Luke Stack said he hopes the conference delegates “have their time of their life” during their stay in Kelowna and celebrate what unites us as a country.
There was a significant presence of the Westbank First Nation at the opening ceremonies, held in a church that is situated on Okanagan Nation traditional territory.
There were drummers and aboriginal dancers as part of the festivities, an official welcome from a WFN elder, and the ceremonial parading in of the Unity Staff by WFN youth band members Saige Werstiuk, Quentin Scott and Lenasia Ned.
The Unity Staff is intended to unite all students symbolically across Canada in leadership regardless of culture, ethnic race or other differences.
The staff is adorned with representative ribbons for every school represented at this year’s conference.
Jordan Coble, a WFN member who works for the heritage museum, also spoke to the delegates about the importance of leadership, about how being a leader is standing up for one another and recognizing and celebrating the differences between individuals.
“To be a leader, you need the support of others around you. You can’t be a leader on your own. You can’ be a leader without that support,” he said.
“Acknowledge and share the gifts that make each of you unique…have humility and self-awareness…and acknowledge your own goodness.”