Senior Students Attend Harvard Leadership Conference

Two SMS students who share a passion for social justice recently participated in the Youth Lead the Change (YLC) virtual conference for high school students developed by Harvard undergrads.

After reading about Grade 11 student, Marijke McDonald, founding the Home is Where the Heart is Foundation with the help of fellow classmate, Charlotte Jennings,  FY Principal Mary Lue Emmerson reached out. Emmerson knew about the YLC conference and upon learning about the students’ service project, encouraged them to apply – the deadline was just two days later.

“Ms. Emmerson told us about the opportunity, and even though the deadline was fast approaching, we decided to just go for it and apply. Shortly after we found out that we were both accepted, which was exciting because the conference was open to students around the world,” said Jennings.

YLC is a global youth leadership development program that empowers students to unlock their leadership potential by developing tangible solutions to global problems. The program was designed by a team of Harvard University students in the Leadership Institute at Harvard College, an organization devoted to training the next generation of global leaders.

The four-day curriculum stretched over two weekends, along with 1-on-1 Zoom calls with their individual mentors. Throughout the conference, participants worked in teams and as a group to learn about their passions, strengths, leadership styles, how to create a movement and tackle issues, public speaking, time management and self-knowledge.

“We learned about the 16 different personality types, and different leadership styles. One thing that was emphasized was that everyone is born a leader, but everyone’s leadership toolbox looks a little bit different,” said McDonald.

According to Jennings, “my biggest take away for me was the opportunity to connect with diverse and inspirational counsellors that are in the next stage of life to us,  who are relatable role models, but who aren’t teachers or traditional authority figures.”

That’s part of the magic of the YLC program—student counsellors have a youthful perspective on leadership development and set out to create meaningful relationships with their mentees that will hopefully last for years to come.

“The most amazing part was how the mentors, who are all Harvard students, were so willing to jump in and help us so personally and specifically. They were truly focused on connecting with us in a real and honest way,” said Jennings.

“Even over the past couple of weeks, I feel like I’ve grown so much from stepping outside of my comfort zone. We were forced to think on our feet and put ourselves out there,” McDonald said. “Something I have been focusing on has been allowing my ‘why’ to drive my character. It has become really important to me, and it’s not something I had really thought about before this experience. This was a big conclusion that I took away.”

To learn more about the YLC and other upcoming opportunities visit:

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