This year, we held our 20th Annual Halton Youth Leadership Symposium (HYLS) and we are thrilled to announce it was a huge success! Since this was the second year we held HYLS virtually, we incorporated many new innovative elements to engage attendees. Prior to the event, many students expressed that mental health and physical health are very meaningful and relevant topics to discuss, especially recently. We took their thoughts into consideration and decided on the theme of Health and Wellbeing for this year’s HYLS. Over one hundred eager grade seven and eight leaders from elementary schools within the HDSB attended the HYLS and each brought a unique perspective to the symposium.
To kick off the event, Vandy Widyalankara and Kacy Bao, the HDSB Student Trustees, and Dean Barnes, the HDSB Superintendent of Education, provided insightful opening remarks. We also showed a special welcome video from Curtis Ennis, the HDSB Director of Education. Additionally, we had our first-ever Mental Health panel organized and run by our Student Senate Mental Health Subcommittee. They facilitated an informative presentation and an engaging Question and Answer (Q&A) session with HDSB Child Youth Councillors and Social Workers
Later that day, our fellow HDSB Student Senators hosted six workshops that were interactive, engaging and entertaining for the attendees. The workshops held this year were: Back to Basics: Finance Edition, The Climate Conservation Cavalry, How to Debate and Speak Like a Pro!, Leadership 101: Developing YOUR Leader Identity, The Strength in our Differences: A Diversity and Inclusion Workshop, and Unloading Coding and a Speck of Tech. The student leaders facilitated passionate and constructive conversations as well as fun team-building activities where attendees could learn alongside like-minded peers and even make new friends.
The HDSB Student Trustees, Vandy and Kacy, gave a wonderful overview of the Senate and provided information about how to get involved. Many students showed curiosity and interest during the Q&A session. Workshop leaders shared a Senate Voice Consultation Google Form with attendees and we’ve received such positive feedback. We are happy to report that the statistics about Student Senate awareness have improved significantly from last year.
This year’s keynote speaker was Puja Amin, an award-winning dancer, choreographer, entrepreneur who is the founder and artistic director of Sanskriti Arts Dance and Fitness Studio. She shared her amazing story and accomplishments and put our theme of Health and Wellbeing into practice with a super-fun Bollywood dance workshop! We are thrilled we’ve received nothing but positive feedback from students and facilitators. The opening remarks, panel, keynote speaker and closing remarks were recorded and will soon be available on the Student Senate website and HDSB platforms.
We donated two hundred and fifty dollars to the Positive Space Network and two hundred and fifty dollars to Danielle’s Place on behalf of all attendees. These donations will help support these important causes that intertwine with our HYLS theme of Health and Wellbeing and significantly support the mental well-being of youth in Halton. Additionally, to thank them for their participation, some of the students and future leaders were awarded raffle prizes, including ten dollar Tim Hortons gift cards.
We would like to recognize the incredible hard work and support of everyone who made this conference possible including the Mental Health Subcommittee, Student Senators, Workshop Leaders, Trustees, and our Staff Facilitators. We couldn’t have done it without them - together, they helped ensure HYLS was an incredible learning opportunity for students and leaders alike.