When Anara Morrison remembers her time at this year’s Canadian Student Leadership Conference (CSLC), she thinks about the indescribable energy. She thinks about sitting in a crowd of hundreds that exploded with cheers and chants at a moment’s notice. She thinks about meeting strangers and forging strong bonds. She thinks about intangible feelings that are hard to put to words.
“[There was this] overall vibe and energy,” she said.
Laura Gillis, who also attended the conference, wants to bring that energy back to Yorkton Regional High School.
“The number one thing I’m bringing back [to YRHS] is the conference spirit,” she said.
Gillis, Morrison, and more than 40 Good Spirit School Division students participated in the 34th annual CSLC in Edmonton last month, taking time to meet people from across Canada and learn how to change their communities.
CSLC started in Yorkton over 30 years ago. YRHS was invited to host a provincial student conference in 1985. Grant Devine led the charge in turning the event into a national conference. Yorkton hosted the first CSLC with the theme of “Youth of Today - Leaders of Tomorrow.”
CSLC has evolved in its 30-plus years, visiting every province for a variety of conferences and themes. CSLC focuses on inspiring youth leadership through workshops, guest speakers, and group activities. Gillis and Morrison’s group explored the mountains in Alberta as a pre-conference event.
“We got to see Banff and Jasper,” Gillis said. “We had fun as a group.”
When the conference started, Gillis and Morrison, both wearing iconic YRHS orange cowboy hats, plunged into the big crowds, eager to meet new people.
“On the first day you get to know everyone,” Gillis said. “You bond with kids from the other end of the country.
“You feel like you’re one collective group.”
“You grow a close connection with them,” Morrison said.
The Yorkton team traveled around Edmonton to learn from speakers and workshops. Morrison’s conversations with people from across Canada opened her mind to new ideas.
“[People] change your perspective on problems in your life,” she said.
Now the team is back in Yorkton and they’re preparing for their own conference. CSLC is returning to Yorkton in 2020 for the first time in over 25 years. Lana Stanek-Sebastian, a YRHS teacher who’s helping plan the conference, is pleased to see it return to Yorkton.
“It’s really amazing that it’s continued to grow over the years and that we’re getting it back,” she said.
Morrison and Gillis are helping with the planning process. They’re excited to put their own spin on the conference. Stanek-Sebastian hopes the conference can expose Canadian students to Saskatchewan’s natural wonders.
“[Many] people...haven’t seen flat-out prairies,” she said. “There is a beauty to that part of Saskatchewan.
“[We’re] capitalizing on the things that are unique to our area.”
Gillis and Morrison want Yorkton’s CSLC to be just as good as the Edmonton edition.
“It was hands-down the most amazing experience of my life,” Morrison said.