May 19, 2010
What is it about an individual that makes them a leader? Who grows up to be Prime Minister, the president of an organization, the captain or coach of a team? The chances are that most adults in leadership roles today had some guidance in discovering their capabilities as youths. But what if everyone had the chance to learn the range of concepts of leadership in their teens, and to learn about their individual abilities to reach their full potential?
The Werklund Foundation believes this can be done, and a $3-million gift to the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Education has created a partnership to develop and support research, teaching and community service activities focused on leadership training for teachers and for those they teach. The Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership Education will be a flagship in Canada in the research and development of programs and initiatives to engage youth of all ages through a variety of means and resources.
The type of program envisioned by Deanna Werklund, president of the foundation that bears her family’s name, will support leadership development at all levels. “I want to make this available to all students, to help them realize their potential. I’d like to see youth in the program who are really smart and doing well in their classes, but who may be socially underdeveloped; average students who tend to be left on their own because they don’t seem to have difficulties either academically or socially; and I want to engage youth from troubled backgrounds—all these groups can benefit from leadership programs.”
Werklund has already fostered projects with students and teachers in the Calgary Board of Education including the recently confirmed Werklund Foundation’s Empowering Minds Youth Leadership Education and the TELUS World of Science’s Werklund Foundation Learning & Leadership Centre. With the establishment of the Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership Education at the U of C’s Faculty of Education, her goal is to have all three groups work collaboratively on developing projects and programs geared towards developing leadership skills.
“Getting rid of my fear of what others think of me has enabled me to become more social and outgoing,” says Nikita Malhotra, 17, who recently completed a leadership program. “I am no longer part of a crowd that simply agrees with everything. I make it a point to voice my opinions and stand up against something that I might not agree with.”
Another student in the program, Shirstine York, 19, says she’s learned that leadership is about taking a stand when you know something is right. “It is heading down the path of life and leading by example for others to follow. Leadership is learning and growing from both mistakes and successes. Being a leader means being the best person I can be, facing challenges with optimism and faith, and encouraging others to do the same.”
“The Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership Education is an important new initiative for us,” says Dennis Sumara, Dean of the Faculty of Education. “Deanna’s vision for the Werklund Foundation has inspired us to think in new ways about how we can develop a research centre that also is a highly active hub for community, school and university collaborations in the area of youth leadership education. To find someone so committed to working with us on youth education is wonderfully gratifying. It energizes us and excites us to know that we’re about to embark on such a positive and beneficial collaboration.”