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Leadership program empowers local student

Sunday, 03 November 2019. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Leadership program empowers local student

Amanjot Sran says her experience with Shad Canada has empowered her to come out of her shell. Here she is on campus at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., where she spent the month of July learning how to embrace her potential.   Photo courtesy of Amanjot Sran

Leadership program empowers local student

By Jess Harrington

Amanjot Sran feels like a different person after her summer experience with Shad, a program designed to help Grade 10 and 11 students across Canada unlock their leadership potential and envision themselves as tomorrow’s change-makers.

“I think if I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have even done an interview like this, honestly,” says Amanjot, a student at Matthew Halton High School in Pincher Creek.

“I don’t even know how to describe it. It just changed me so much.”

Successful Shad applicants live for a month at one of 19 host universities, and go through a series of lectures, workshops and hands-on experiences focused on STEAM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and personal development.

The program is designed to attract students with “high aptitudes for risk-taking, curiosity, excellence and resilience,” as Shad Canada’s website puts it, and prepares them to take on social and economic challenges.

Amanjot is one of a few students from Matthew Halton who have gone through Shad recently. Last year, Zack Renschler, now in Grade 12, spent his July at New Brunswick University, while Irvin Provost, who attended the school until Grade 11, went through the program at Western University in London, Ont.

For her Shad experience, Amanjot spent four weeks at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

Her program focused largely on engineering, but she also enjoyed workshops on law, physics, coding, geology and neurology, and a hands-on tour of the university cadaver lab.

Project planning and implementation was a key theme of most learning sessions, and was the central point of a group project the students had to complete within the month.

For this project, the learners were asked to come up with a solution to the question, How can Canadians impactfully reduce waste?

Amanjot’s group designed and pitched a plan for a business called Hustle, which would collect waste from large businesses and turn it into pieces of art to be displayed at galleries.

Amanjot describes her time at Shad as utterly transformative.

Learning how innovative projects come together has made her less intimidated by the creative process, she says. It taught her that being a leader doesn’t mean she has to do everything by herself, but that great things are most often achieved through teamwork.

Getting to dabble in a wide array of STEAM disciplines helped her imagine possibilities for her future that she had never considered before.

“I never had any interest in engineering, but going there, I grew to like it,” she says with a smile. “They brought out interests that I had no idea I would find.”

Above all, Amanjot found that getting out of her familiar community to experience new perspectives, and meet people with a similar drive for change, inspired her 

to push herself to new heights.

“When I went there, I wasn’t necessarily the most active in leadership — I guess I was still in my shell,” she says. “But going to Shad, I saw so many people that all had the same desire to do good and accomplish things in their community and outside it, I got a sense of, Whoa, I want to be more like all these people here.”

Since coming back, Amanjot has become an active member of the Pincher Creek Trailbreakers, a youth coalition working to enact projects that enrich the community and bring new opportunities to Pincher Creek. She says she can’t imagine not being a leader anymore.

Amanjot encourages any youth 

who has the desire to make a difference to apply for Shad, even if they haven’t been able to act on that desire much yet.

“You don’t really have to be the leader right now, because I guarantee that’s what you’ll become after,” she says.

“But if you want to be a change-maker, to catch opportunity and accomplish great things in your life, I highly suggest you apply, because it will honestly be a pivotal point in your life.”

Applications for the 2020 Shad program are open until Nov. 18. To find out more, visit www.shad.ca.