Youth conference encourages empowerment.
Around 150 students attended the second annual youth conference took place last Nov. 23 at Percey Severight Memorial Hall in Kylemore.
Organized by Fishing Lake First Nation and entitled Empower Your Dreams, the conference is aimed at Grades 9-12, with an emphasis on empowering youth in leadership, personal goals and future careers.
Students from Kenaston, Yellow Quill, Keeseekee, Muscowpetung Educational Centre, Fishing Lake School, Kawacatoose School, Cote School and Wadena Composite School were invited by the small planning committee of Osawa Kiniw Kayseas, Emily Sabit, Janelle Sunshine and Ryan Kayseas, who organized the event with help from sponsors and grants.
For advice on future education, representatives from Carlton Trail College, University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina were also available.
The highlights of the event were the three guest speakers, the first of which was Kendal Netmaker, whose exchange to the students entitled, “Take your life to the next level,” was drawn from his success as an entrepreneur.
At noon Teagen Littlechief addressed the students through song during “Lunch with Teagen Littlechief,” and rounding off the day, “Defining your Own Success” was delivered by martial art expert Shana Pasapa.
The event kicked off with registration at 9.30 a.m. followed by opening ceremonies commencing just after 10 a.m. Osawa Kiniw Kayseas welcomed students.
“You should value youth and I would like to see you achieve your goals,” said Kayseas in her opening remarks.
She went on to say how taking her life seriously as a youth, she had spent a year in Italy as an exchange student, graduated from Wadena Composite School and went on to University of Regina and received her Bachelor of Arts degree.
Youth conference organizers were pleased with the outcome of this years conference. They are, left to right, Emily Sabit, Ryan Kayseas, Osawa Kiniw Kayseas,
Kayseas also thanked Mr. (Kel) Melnyk, a teacher from Wadena Composite School who was present.“He was one of the my favourite teachers. He was hard on me but upon reflection, I was probably just as hard on him,” said Kayseas.
“You are successful if you can help in your community. You are never alone, you have a family, and a community here to help,” encouraged Chief Derek Sunshine of Fishing Lake First Nation in his welcoming speech.
To help the students understand the importance of their futures and what they do now with their lives affects their future, Kendal Netmaker took to the stage to deliver his advice.
Netmaker is an aboriginal entrepreneur who grew up on the Sweetgrass First Nation. He developed Neechie Gear, a “lifestyle apparel brand that empowers youth through sports” where a portion of the company profits go back into programs that help disadvantaged youth become involved in sports.
Kendal is an educated man with two degrees from the University of Saskatchewan, and along with his business, he dedicates his time motivating young professionals to achieve their goals and dreams.
Shana Pasapa bought a different perspective to the students as a martial arts expert. She has just launched Power Our Women (POW), a self-defence program aimed at women.
Pasapa grew up on the Whitebear First Nation and is a mother of two boys. In the last two years she has received the CBC Future 40 Award and Strength of Our Women Award for Sports. She was also the recipient for the Proud Generation Calendar and The Native American Fitness Calendar.
Teagen Littlechief also comes from the Whitebear First Nation and her story started when she was just four years old. A teacher had noticed how well she sang and convinced her and her mother to take vocal lessons. Since then she has become a recording artist, releasing her Rising Above album in 2009 along with a string of singles that have been played internationally.
With all this advice and help from both schools and the empowerment conference, students have a good foundation on which to start a career, have someone to turn to, or at least, have a vision or dream for the future.
By Andy Labdon.