Forum touts student leadership

Heather Latter

Grades 6-8 students in the Northwest Catholic District School Board learned about leadership last week as part of a forum where local teen Dexter Fichuk offered a presentation at four of the board’s schools.
“The response was really good,” noted Fichuk. “The students were engaged and listening.
“I was really happy with how it went.”
The Grade 12 student has headed the Fort Frances (Mob)ilizers at Fort High since August, 2011 and also has spearheaded many “Me to We” campaigns, such as “Hallowe’en for Hunger” and the “Vow of Silence,” as well as focused on anti-bullying efforts.
This past summer, Fichuk embarked on a volunteer trip to Ecuador through “Me to We” (a partner of “Free the Children”), of which the philosophy is to create positive social and environmental impacts in local and global communities.
As well, Fichuk is the student trustee on the Rainy River District School Board this year and recently was recognized for his “Me to We” and anti-bullying efforts by being featured in a television segment which aired on MuchMusic’s “We Day” special.
“I talked to the kids about how they, too, can get involved and how one person can make a difference,” he said, referring to his presentation to the students in the Catholic board.
“The kids loved him,” enthused Amy LaFroy, the board’s Catholicity co-ordinator, who had invited Fichuk to speak.
She said the board has a Student Leadership Program where each year they have a gathering together of the intermediate students.
“We do this separately at each school because of our distance, of course,” she explained, noting she usually schedules a guest speaker.
And after hearing Fichuk give a short presentation earlier this fall at St. Mary’s Church, LaFroy knew she wanted to ask him.
“I thought this guy is really good,” she recalled. “He was a good speaker and what better than to have a youth speaker speak to our youth. . . .
“He was the one making a difference, doing these small things, and that’s what I wanted the kids to see—a role model, a person from a small town just like them and how a small change can make a huge difference,” LaFroy reasoned.
And not only did the students make a connection to their curriculum, she said they were truly inspired.
“Your presentation was great,” wrote one student. “I loved hearing your stories . . . I hope you can come to our school some other time.”
“Your presentation inspired me today,” wrote another.
Yet another noted: “Really inspiring speech today. I really enjoyed it. Your trip sounded amazing.
“I hope I can go on one and help other people like you did.”
Fichuk also spoke to members of the student council after each presentation to offer suggestions about the work they are doing in their schools.
LaFroy said all schools have indicated they will participate in the Water Rafiki Friend Chain, which can be purchased from the “Me to We” website for $10 each.
The versatile piece of Masai-inspired beadwork can be worn as a bracelet, anklet, or necklace.
Every purchase directly impacts the lives of those around the world who don’t otherwise have access to sustainable sources of clean water.
Specifically with this Water Rafiki, one chain equals one year of clean water for one person.
“The whole focus is to give the kids a voice, and to promote and develop transferable skills for them in leadership and organization,” LaFroy noted.
“The more we can teach them that, give them the opportunity to be leaders in the school, that’s the aim for the program.”
Every two months, LaFroy has a videoconference with all of the schools and the student councils at each school has an intermediate level representative.
She said the kids talk to each other about what is happening at each school, discussing social justice programs, community involvement, and event plans for school “Spirit Days.”
“And it’s all centered around gospel values,” LaFroy added. “We always try to incorporate the Catholic element into everything that we do.”
She said she hopes the students are encouraged to start getting involved right away and to make a difference.