This past weekend, I was invited to Mono Cliffs Outdoor Education Centre to attend a leadership retreat hosted by TDSB’s SuperCouncil. Sixty students across the board were chosen by their schools to participate in workshops and training that would encourage us to become better leaders in our communities. These workshops focused on things like social justice and equity, advertising school events, encouraging school spirit and effective means of communication.

When we first arrived at Mono Cliffs, we participated in several ice breakers that introduced the staff and participants to each other. All of the students involved were intelligent, ambitious and motivated people. Many were involved in their communities and were constantly looking for ways to better their schools. These icebreakers created a friendly atmosphere and made the exchange of ideas easier. Though many of the participants came from different areas and were meeting for the first time, they were still able to relate to each other’s high school experiences. It opened my eyes to how incredibly large and diverse Toronto really is. We all come from different backgrounds and cultures but shared a common trait: the passion for learning.

The following morning there was a series of activities that were designed to develop our communication and leadership skills. One of the activities was a team building game where we were split into groups of six. While standing in a circle, you would link hands with the person across from you and another person in the group to create a knot. The goal of the game was to work together to untangle ourselves as quickly as possible. From the activity, I learned that we should recognize when it’s time to give up, and start over again. At first, it was frustrating having to begin the activity again, but we realized that we were able to finish more quickly because of this decision.

We began our workshops in the afternoon. The first was on social justice and equity. We engaged in debate on controversial topics and discrimination that might happen at a school. Though the debates were heated, the leaders made sure everyone was respected and felt safe. When there was conflict, I was able to take a step back and take a new approach with my words. Through this, I was able to educate and be educated by my peers. The next workshop focused on communication. Here, we discussed how we can improve our oral presentation skills and what the best methods were to spread the word about school events. This workshop informed you not only on things you can take back to your schools, but use in daily life as well. At the end of it, we did an activity called “What’s your beef?” where we talked about issues in our schools and ways that we can solve them. I realized that many of the schools shared similar issues like lack of student involvement, or the social divide between students in different programs.

Overall, the weekend was an incredible experience filled with laughs, new friends, and realizations. Through it, I have gained a stronger sense of community and I am much more aware of the opportunities around me. The weekend has motivated me to take a larger role as a leader in my community and I hope to share these opportunities, ideas, and experiences with my peers and my school.