The Child Witness Centre welcomed 4,200 Grade 8 students, and their teachers, to the 16th Annual Youth Symposium which features some of Canada’s top speakers sharing personal stories about goal setting, community citizenship, healthy dating and more. This day-long event was held on April 16th for Guelph and Wellington County students and for the first time ever expanded to include two days for students from Waterloo Region, April 17th and April 18th.
The Youth Symposium is a meaningful day-long program held on three consecutive days, reaching almost 1,500 Grade 8 students and their teachers from across Guelph and Wellington County on its first day and an additional 3,000 students and their teachers from across Waterloo Region on the second day and third day. Each year, we develop a program and source inspiring, well-informed presenters who share their experiences of belonging, resiliency, goal setting and community engagement.
The Youth Symposium is strategically scheduled in April – reaching students as they prepare for high school and providing them with the information and tools needed to meet many of life’s opportunities and challenges. By collaborating with students, teachers and presenters, the Youth Symposium continues to grow in significance as its messages remain focused on the experiences and issues that are relevant to these young people in our community.
As Stu Saunders, one of our guest presenters, said: “You will not find this calibre of program anywhere in Canada for this age group.”
The Youth Symposium provides an opportunity to help and support youth during this very challenging time by equipping these young people with the skills and confidence needed to meet many of life’s challenges and opportunities – empowering them towards strong futures.
Powerful presentations from some of the best speakers in the country speak to issues like bullying, personal accountability, substance abuse, resiliency, risk taking and healthy dating – all topics that are important for students’ social, physical, emotional and mental health as they prepare to begin high school. Each presenter uses a different style and approach that adapts to different learning styles ensuring the day’s messages resonate with everyone.
The goals of the Youth Symposium are:
- Share with students information that is relevant and supports their overall social, physical, emotional, mental health and wellbeing.
- Educate students on tools and strategies that will help them develop resiliency and empower them to strong futures.
- Support youth by equipping them with the skills and confidence needed to embrace life’s opportunities and challenges.
- Challenge students to make a difference in the world.
- Utilize different presentation approaches to address a variety of learning styles.
- Support the teachers in their work with their students.
The program is 100% accessible and through sponsorships we are able to ensure it is affordable. It is open to all Grade 8 students in Waterloo Region and Guelph and Wellington County. Students remain with their class throughout the day and the smaller theatre setting encourages better dialogue between themselves, their teachers and their presenters. Teachers participate with their students and this allows them the opportunity to continue the learning in the classroom beyond the Youth Symposium
“I feel inspired to be an even better person than I am now.” -A Student
“The speakers present on many levels – the kids pick up valuable messages, but there is so much for teachers too, which can be taken back and incorporated into individual classrooms and schools to spread the message even further.” -A Teacher
“Our goal in offering this program is to expose Grade 8 students to a variety of perspectives and topics that focus on the opportunities and challenges facing them as they transition into high school – which is such a key time in their development,” -Laura Muirhead, Executive Director of the Child Witness Centre.
Eleven speakers shared their stories across the three days, including:
- SCOTT HAMMELL: A four-time Guinness World Record holder for stunts including World’s Highest Blindfolded Skydive and World’s Highest Suspended Straightjacket Escape, Hammell spoke to the importance of challenging yourself to do the unthinkable and the rewards that come with being tenacious in the pursuit of personal goals. Scott is a graduate of K.C.I. high school here in Waterloo Region.
- BECKY KELLAR-DUKE: Olympian Becky Kellar-Duke competed in the first four Olympic Winter Games in which women’s ice hockey was included, winning one silver and four gold medals. Kellar-Duke spoke about the roles that goal setting and self-determination played on her road to the Olympics.
- RICK OSBORNE: Once one of Canada’s most-wanted criminals, Osborne spent almost 25 years in 33 different penitentiaries for crimes involving assault, weapons and narcotics. He shared with students how victimization early in his life led to involvement with street gangs and how he decided to change the trajectory of his life – earning his B.A. in Psychology from Queen’s University and dedicating his life to supporting others.
- GUELPH POLICE SERVICE/WATERLOO REGION POLICE WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT/DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TREATMENT CENTRE: Students heard from trusted experts on topics that include healthy dating, cyberbullying, human trafficking and consent.
To view the 2019 presenters, click here.
To view our 2019 Youth Symposium brochure, click here.
The dates for the 2020 Youth Symposium will be published in Sept 2019.