Rocky View Schools (RVS) Leadership Academy, a division-wide student leadership program, is preparing to host a Rebooting Student Leadership event on Nov. 25 at the RVS Education Centre in Airdrie.
The event, which will take place all Friday morning, will showcase special guest speaker Drew Dudley (leadership speaker, author, and inspirational Ted-talker) and will include activities to showcase what Leadership Academy is all about, and bring students together from across the public school division.
According to Eden Neufeld, one of the student leaders organizing the event, Rebooting Student Leadership aims to give high school students a taste of the program that empowers students to deepen their sense of self and broaden their social network.
Neufeld, who is currently in Grade 12 at Chestermere High School and is also in her third year of the program, said the event will also showcase the program’s impact on previous student leaders.
“We are bringing back past Leadership Academy alumni to speak on how their time in [the program] has affected them in their future and in post-secondary,” Neufeld said.
The student leader added the event will also host “connection-focused” activities for attendees, culminating in an inspirational keynote presentation from Dudley.
“Drew has been a friend of the Academy program for a long time, and we have had the privilege of speaking to him in the past,” she said. “He’s a very polished speaker and it’s just so wonderful to be able to learn from him and witness him in action and see where that will take us.”
The Learning Academy, delivered outside the students’ regular timetable, offers a blended learning environment where students connect during both in-person workshops and online video conferences over the course of the school year, according to the RVS website.
Throughout the year, students learn from the expertise of practicing business and community leaders through off-site trips or guest presentations.
Students also develop skills in self-directed learning, collaboration, and communication. They later present an “exhibition of learning” at the program’s annual Connect Summit event, according to Lauren Curry, RVS Community Learning Centre teacher.
“We have a three-year scope and sequence of the Leadership Academy program in Rocky View that draws students from every high school that come together once a month,” Curry said, adding any student can apply to participate.
Through participating in the program, RVS students can earn full course credits for grades 10, 11, and 12.
The Rebooting Student Leadership event is a “kickstarter” event to explore the impact the leadership students hope to have as part of their final legacy project. This year, ten third-year students from different high schools across RVS teamed up to determine a theme for their project.
According to Neufeld, this year’s legacy project was inspired by the disconnection and isolation felt by many students and the public at large during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[In school], a lot of people feel very disconnected from their buildings, people missed that school spirit and staff are struggling because of COVID-19,” she said.
Neufeld said the student leaders recognized throughout the pandemic that people haven’t been “showing up for each other” in the way they used to. She added the Rebooting Student Leadership event is an opportunity to bring together high schools from across the division to feel togetherness again.
“Every high school is sending a small team of student leaders to come and witness this talk and events that we’re putting on throughout the morning,” she said.
“We have a space where we can start to recognize people who are doing good and people who are focused on making those meaningful and impactful connections and applaud and support them in any way that we can.”
According to Curry, the event will be hosted at the Education Centre in Airdrie, as it is the ideal venue and boasts a large capacity.
“We’re able to bring more than just the Leadership Academy students together,” Curry said of the venue along Airdrie’s Chinook Winds Drive. “On a normal Leadership Academy Day, we have about 70 students, but this event, we’ve invited high schools to bring delegations of 25 people from every high school.
“We’re upwards of 200 people coming together for this one.”
Curry said an overarching theme for the event is to gather for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, to give students a chance to experience what in-person contact can do to energize and inspire them.
Neufeld echoed those sentiments, adding the aim of the event is in its name: “Rebooting Student Leadership.”
“I think rebooting student leadership is such an important cause, especially as we come out of the pandemic,” Neufeld said. “I think having an energizer event like this where people from all across the division can come and see the amazing things that happen when student leaders work together is so important.
“Everyone can leave with a deeper sense of what it means to serve your community and to be a leader and to connect with other people.”
Neufeld said participating in the Leadership Academy has been a rewarding experience. She added she has benefited from skill-based teaching, which is something she hadn’t experienced in a typical classroom setting.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and my values through this program, but also about how to put on events like this and how to run things that span bigger than just the classroom,” she said.
“A lot of the work we’ve been doing has spanned across the entire division, and it’s been really [rewarding] to see how far our team can go.”