A crowd of over fifty students, consisting of club presidents, vice presidents, homeform representatives, and other student leaders, stood outside the library at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute on 12 October, each waiting patiently for their turn to enter before the morning bell rang. These students attended the first MGCI leadership training day, organized by the Student Activities Council advisors, Ms. McCalla and Ms. Yamashita.

The Student Leadership Day was an all day event organized to give students a chance to improve their leadership skills, explore social justice and equity topics, and identify ways they can be more welcoming and inclusive of their peers. “I think it was important for all the student leaders to be able to gather together in person for the first time and learn about ways to be more effective leaders at the school and reflect on ways that they can ensure that what they’re doing is inclusive of all students”, said Ms. McCalla.

To kick start the event, guest speakers from One Voice One Team (OVOT), a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering youth, were invited to speak to the students and host interactive activities targeted towards building leadership skills. To break the ice, OVOT introduced short team building exercises where students worked together in different groups to complete challenges like creating the letter H using their bodies, and organizing themselves by birth month in silence.“It was a lot of fun,” said Enoch He, the co-president of MGCI Physics Club. “The activities were really engaging, and we got to collaborate with several other leaders.”

Students then were split into teams, each assigned to one of the OVOT leaders and participated in a variety of small group activities. The first activity was a pattern-guessing challenge, where team members had to guess the correct sequence. After successfully decoding the sequence, the OVOT leaders held group discussions offering students the chance to speak about their leadership experiences and role models, as well as holding a short lesson about how to achieve excellence, with the help of the acronym SWOLE—self-respect, working hard, overcoming adversity, and leading by example. Students shared about why they chose to be a leader, and talked about the four types of leadership styles: autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire, and transformational.

Students gathered around, listening to OVOT challenge statements.

Each team moved to a different station and regrouped with other teams for the next series of timed activities. Students were challenged to complete tasks such as solving riddles and creating chants about a topic they were passionate about. “It was honestly a chance to have a laugh. Our group did a free-style rap about how the state of the environment makes us sad. My friend beatboxed, and we all just relaxed”, said Dua Qidwai, CodeHers president. As OVOT wrapped up their session, a check out form was shared and students had the opportunity to give feedback on the activities. 

During the next portion of the leadership training, students headed back to their seats as Josue Tario, one of the student equity program advisors for the Toronto District School Board, began a presentation about social justice and equity. During this interactive discussion, students brainstormed different strategies when facing an issue of racism. A few points mentioned were to interject the conversation and call out the person on the spot, informing someone, ignoring the situation, or privately discussing with the person regarding the situation. SAC president, Paromita Roy said, “I think it was an informational session. I got to hear the different perspectives from our club leaders.” After the presentation concluded, students were dismissed for lunch, and returned an hour later to continue the second half of the training.

Student leaders then signed a leadership code of conduct where they committed themselves to being respectful, kind, and inclusive. Homeroom representatives committed to their role in participating in homeroom activities, demonstrating enthusiasm and support for all student lead initiatives and SAC at MGCI. Students were then given a feedback form to fill out regarding their experience of the day. They were also asked to fill out a personal tracker where all leaders were to list two major goals for the year, one being leadership-related and other equity, steps they would take to reach their goals, and resources they needed. After the conclusion of the final activity, all student leaders were dismissed, though homeform representatives and SAC members were asked to stay back.

The team discussed planning for Wellness Wednesdays—special days when Period B classes are longer, giving an opportunity for students to participate in wellness activities. The first Wellness Wednesday took place on 26 October. When Ms. Yamashita was asked about how the training day went, she said, “I thought the day turned out pretty well. Students were participating, working together and talking. And students were already asking when the next day would be.” A second leadership training date is to be scheduled during the start of the second semester.