Leadership Entrepreneurship and DesignThinking (LEAD) camp

Monday, May 27, 2019

WISC and Goodle LEAD Pic

In fifteen years of Indigenous services at St. Paul’s University College, there have been various Indigenous camps offered on campus, but last week was the first Indigenous Leadership Entrepreneurship and DesignThinking (LEAD) camp ever offered here—or anywhere.

The weeklong camp was organized by Shawn Johnston, Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre (WISC) Events Coordinator and Cheryl Maksymyk, WISC Coordinator, in partnership with Google Canada and Okwaho Equal Source consulting. Indigenous communities throughout Ontario were invited to send students in grades 11 and 12 to participate, with interest being so strong that eventually applications were cut off.

Wisc Youth PictureThe 17 participants from across the province learned about postsecondary education while visiting UWaterloo, but also participated in an entrepreneurial challenge. With the support of Owaho and St. Paul’s mentors, students formed teams, identified problems in their own communities, considered solutions, and turned solutions into pitches which they presented to a group of entrepreneurs and engineers at Google’s Kitchener headquarters. Along the way, Owaho staff facilitated design thinking and entrepreneurship workshops, helping youth develop skills to create social impact in their communities.

Students also engaged in cultural activities. Each morning began with a ceremonial smudge while evenings varied from singing and dancing with a Haudenosaunee family to learning the Mohawk language with a Six Nations instructor to the final evening where the Blue Sky Singers and a fire keeper joined camp participants.

Johnson says, “Many of the students, especially those who live in urban contexts, don’t always have the opportunity to make these cultural connections.” Students also had a chance to visit a mall and video arcade.

At the end of the week, the winning pitch addressed the health issue of canine overpopulation in Indigenous communities, with a solution for safe breeding. The winners won tablets provided by WISC.

WISC Youth Lab PictureBeyond the prizes were many intangible benefits.  Johnston says it was encouraging for Indigenous students to be welcomed by Google, and to meet Tara Rush, the only identified Indigenous employee at Google in Kitchener who works between Google Canada and Indigenous communities across the country, as well as meeting the Indigenous consultants from Owaho. The camp also allowed participants to get to know one another better. The chaperone from a community four hours north of Thunder Bay commented that she had worked with her students for years, but that this experience was the first time they had ever made a real connection.

While this is the first LEAD camp, it will not be the last: a similar camp for grade 9 and 10 students is planned at St. Paul’s this November with students eagerly awaiting the opportunity.

WISC Youth at Fire Grounds

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