From Lost to Leader: The Seed That Was Planted

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
– Anne Frank

We are thrilled to announce a new program available from Three Things Consulting for communities, organizations and First Nations.  LeaderSeed is a one, three or five day experience for youth and / or young adults that helps plant the ideas of what leadership can be, what it looks and feels like and how young people can grow the leader inside of them.  Reflective, engaging and at times challenging this program is geared to youth who are identified leaders and those who may never have thought they were.   Along with the 3 Things, “You Matter, You Are Important, and You Belong”, we want to inspire each youth to discover his or her own unique abilities and capacity to take leadership as they journey from adolescence into adulthood.

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For those of you know me, you know I like to tie in stories while sharing an idea, probably a good trait for a public speaker and facilitator.   That said, more than once I have listened (and heard) that some don’t need the back-story – and that’s OK.  If you are one those who wants the nuts and bolts of what we are launching today scroll down to the LeaderSeed picture and read more.  For those who have a minute or two…here is part of the story of how we got here today.

When I was a teenager, I never thought of myself as a leader.  Leaders to me, at that time, wore high school jackets, played sports or were involved in student government.   They did well in school, never cut class and certainly didn’t hang around the infamous ‘smoke doors’.  That wasn’t me.  Though I did play rugby one year, I wasn’t that great, I never really found my place academically in high school and yes, I did hang out behind the school with ‘those kids’. I did once try to run for something in school government and truthfully I can’t remember if I won or not.   It wasn’t that significant to me; outside of the fact that those kids were the leaders and I wasn’t (or so I thought).

At 17 I tried to live independently: no parents, no supervision and no rules.  You can imagine how well that worked out.  It wasn’t long before I burnt through several apartments (it amazed me that they wanted rent every month) and shared living situations.  Soon a social worker pointed me towards my last option, a minimally supervised youth shelter in Ottawa.   Leader?  I didn’t think so.

By October of 1992 I had dropped out of school (again) and had very little happening in my life.  One evening I was walking past the Parliament Buildings and saw a group of people protesting on top of the Hill.  For those who have lived in Ottawa it’s something you get used to, people being heard (or at least speaking out) and it’s easy to walk past and not even notice.  I am ever grateful that I noticed that night.

I remembered seeing a poster about the protest, a group that wanted more housing for youth in Ottawa.  They were going to sleep on cardboard boxes on the sidewalk in front of the Centennial Flame.  That night I joined them…and didn’t leave until the next spring.  In that time, I found that regardless of my role in high school, I in fact, was a leader.  I simply needed a seed to be planted.

Four of us that night ended up deciding that there needed to be a louder message about homelessness and how it affected us as youth.  Was the shelter I staying at, where I was given $13 a day for meals and little to no programming or supports going to help me end the cycle I had found myself in?  Probably not.  Funny now that I think about it, I decided sleeping on a sidewalk for a winter was a better option than the programming they offered.

The long and short of this story is that during that winter this group of us, from 17 – 24 years old started a street shelter on the sidewalk in the shadow of the Parliament of Canada.  We spoke out: to passer-by’s, to media and Members of Parliament.  (In fact, one MP even stayed out with us one night at our camp sharing a tent with me).  We built up our shelter with donated straw bales, blankets and tarps.  We collected food daily and shared it with others who were homeless each night.  By the end of our action we fed hundreds of others and more than 150 youth stayed with us at the camp.  Some stayed a night or two, others for the duration.  We all learned something in this process…we had a voice – and we could use that voice to lead others.

That was the seed of leadership that was planted in the process.  Deep inside, roots began to grow in me; connecting me to something greater, building an understanding of service to others and helping me understand this gift that I had been given: a chance to share my experience, share my ideas and (hopefully) motivate others to do the same.

That seed which has grown and blossomed has lead to me to today.   From there I travelled with a youth led national speaking tour on social justice and the environment, worked for international NGO’s on environmental and children’s issues, been a live in counsellor for street youth, been the executive director of a youth led non-profit serving youth in care and custody and spent many years consulting with national and regional organizations.  I have been privileged to speak and share my message to thousands in the more than 20 years since that first winter when I found my voice; when I found what leadership, in me, could look like.

LeaderSeed5-page-0LeaderSeed, a program developed by Three Things Consulting, is a capacity building program for youth ages 12-25.  LeaderSeed has been developed to help youth identify the qualities they have within, and to understand that leadership looks different for and is available to everyone.  Being a strong leader helps us make healthy choices for ourselves and to interact positively within our communities – and this program helps young people identify what leadership looks like within them.

As the core of many of the programs we offer to organizations and communities, during the LeaderSeed training we walk youth through a process for them to believe and understand that they matter, they are important, and they belong while at the same time learning strategies to share these 3 Things with others.  Through sharing, these positive beliefs are reinforced internally for young people.  When young people believe the 3 Things as it applies to them as individuals it provides room for continued growth.

Each session is tailored to meet the needs of the young people you serve.  In the development of the program we have created key modules that you (or the youth involved with your organization) can review and identify which will be best suited to meet the cultural and experiential needs of the group.  Completion of each session ends with young people receiving a LeaderSeed Certificate that can be included on resumes or as a volunteer experience.

LeaderSeed is led by one or two of our experienced team members depending on the number of participants.  Click here to learn more about this exciting new program or contact us for more information about the fees associated with LeaderSeed.