Students gaining confidence with Take the Lead

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Jason Kerr
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Students from four Prince Albert schools took part in Take the Lead at the Margo Fournier Centre on Thursday.  This is the fourth year for the program, which seeks to promote physical activity among youth while instilling strong leadership skills.

Students and their adult leaders look for instructions during one of their projects.

“When they get into their pre-teen and teen years then they tend to look more to their peers for leadership,” says Peggi-Lynn Gatin, the health promotion co-ordinator for the PAPHR.  “We know that’s a key influence on physical activity.”

Take the Lead was created out of a partnership between PAPHR, the Lakeland District for Sport, Culture and Recreation, and local school boards.

Gatin says they thought of the program when they noticed they were having difficulties hiring students to supervise the health region’s after school recreation programs. 

They wanted to start a program that promoted physical activity while fostering the necessary leadership skills, which led to Take the Lead.

“We’ve trained well over 100 kids to be leaders,” Gatin says, “Leaders for their peers and for other kids in their school around physical activity.

Take the Lead works with kids ages 11 to 14.  They’re instructed on how to help some of their less outgoing peers get involved with school yard activities.  They also learn some new games to teach at recess or after school.  Representatives from the schools involved say they’ve noticed a difference in the students who participate in the program.

“Over the year they gain lots of confidence in themselves, in their own abilities, to be able to stand up and speak,” says Tanya Price-Wright, the Vincent Massey Community School co-ordinator.  “They learn how to be respectful around the other kids.  They learn how to get their attention without screaming and yelling at them.  They learn life-long skills and what’s better than that.”

Price-Wright has been with the program all four years of its operation.  She says the schools have tried similar programs with varying levels of success, but felt this one simply offered more.

“It was a little more in depth for us,” she says.

The other co-ordinators agree that leadership skills are important, but they also stress the importance of physical activity and keeping kids engaged.   Cassie Bendig, the youth recreation co-ordinator for Lakeland District of Sport, Culture and Recreation says that’s one of the biggest benefits of the program.

“You hear of the after school time period problem, where they’re bored after school.  This helps to create that structure and gives them something to do during that time period.  Children need 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity per day and the goal of this is to help them get there.”

“It gives them an opportunity to stay focused,” Price-Wright agrees.  “It keeps them on the go.”

Students from Massey joined others from St. John Community School, St. Michael Community School, and Princess Margaret School to participate in the activities.  They’ll go back to their schools with their newly learned skills to try and help their fellow students before meeting again in March.

“Mid-term training, we call it,” Gatin says, “That’s an opportunity for the kids and adult leaders to look at what we need a little more help with.

Do we need a little bit more help with teamwork, decision making, learning a few more games, how to work together?  That follow-up mid-term training works to meet those needs.”

The co-ordinators hope things won’t end there.  They’re happy with the success it’s achieved so far, especially since the kids they work with are not considered stereotypical leaders.

“(The schools) try to pick those kids that tend to be the silent leaders, or sometimes they’ll pick the kids that normally wouldn’t be picked to go to a leadership (program),” Gatin says.  “The intent is to pick kids to teach them those leadership skills.  (To) give them a chance to practice it.”

The others agree.

“It doesn’t matter what issues they have, everybody can play,” Bendig says.  “This program is to show that everybody can be a leader as well.”

Organizations: Lakeland District for Sport, Vincent Massey Community School, Michael Community School Princess Margaret School

Geographic location: Lakeland District

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