Leading in Belize: Kaelin Gillis

Recently, we sat down with Kaelin Gillis to talk with her about her teaching experience in Belize. Here is what she had to say:

” Last summer was amazing for me as I had the opportunity to complete a service learning course through St Francis Xavier University in Belize. Traveling with 12 other pre-service and in-service teachers, we had the opportunity to provide education programming to local Mayan children in a small community called Maya Center. This service learning experience was one of a lifetime. Traveling to a developing country was a first for most of our group; composed mainly of physical educators, along with some elementary specialists and middle/high-school teachers.
While I could write volumes about my time in Maya Center and the surrounding communities we visited, I’ll share with you a few big take-home lessons:
1.Children naturally love to play. The Belizean students loved taking off their “slippers” (sandals) and joining in an impromptu game of soccer, or climbing the closest tree, trying to hang upside down from the big branches. We (in Canada) need to do a better job at fostering play in natural environments, and allowing some risky play to happen for our students and children.
2. We are fortunate to be teaching and living in this amazing country. Opportunities are seemingly endless for you in Canada – if you wanted to become a personal trainer, a scuba diving instructor, or a dog walker, you have access to do this in most provinces, and support from institutions. Belize is an incredible country that has much beauty but is still developing economically. I saw so many students we would describe as being extra talented who will not necessarily have the opportunity to see their goals and dreams met. The 14-year old girl who was a firecracker on the field will most likely end up taking care of her siblings and cousins instead of pursuing her passion in sport. This is a message I remind myself of daily, and I have shared this story with my students and colleagues.
3. Having fears is a natural thing. Facing and working to overcome them is a liberating experience. The excursions we experienced on our weekends while in Belize seemed to provide exposure to many of our group members’ fears: snakes, horses, water. Being among supportive colleagues spoke volumes to our comfort levels in facing our fears. There is something to say about a group of 14 people, over half of whom did not know each other going in to this experience, working together daily, experiencing incredible opportunities professionally and personally, being so naturally cohesive.

SLC Belize

It goes without saying that if you ever come across an experience to do service learning – whether through a practicum in your Bachelor of Education program, a Masters course, or simply an opportunity to volunteer in a developing country, you will be happy you took it. I know I am.”

Thank you for sharing this amazing experience Kaelin! We look forward to your future travels as you lead around the world and in your local community!


How I Lead: Grace Dafoe

As part of our second year of grow, the SLC Alumni Association wants to know how each one of you are leading in your field. With that in mind, here is what 2012 Alumni Grace Dafoe had to say:

“When I thought of a leader growing up, I thought I never matched up with the qualities of what I saw in a ‘good’ leader. The people I looked up to were generally charismatic, outgoing and incredibly decisive. None of those things seemed to match up with how I felt, further proving my point as to why I didn’t feel like a leader

Generally, I felt like I fly under the radar, put my head down and do the work when asked and when it is needed. I’m not a quick decision maker, I need time to analyze each choice and make the best decision. So how could I, Grace Dafoe, even be remotely close to a good leader?!

If there is one thing I have learned in the last few years, it is that leaders come in many different packages, and that is simply because different leaders have different strengths and weaknesses. We only need to learn to work together and accept these different strategies and approaches to leadership.

1. In what capacity/role are you currently in a position of leadership?

Within my sport community, I recently was nominated and elected as an athlete representation for Alberta Skeleton Provincial athletes on the board of directors. I see this as an opportunity to make a difference and be a voice for athletes today and in the future. This allows me to bring issues from the athletes to the board of directors and help provide impact for decisions to ensure they do not negatively impact the athletes.

Within my school community, I am a part of the first graduating class from Mount Royal University to have a degree in Health and Physical Education, with a major in Physical Literacy. As a senior student, we are leaders of this newly created bachelors degree program, and challenged to go out and be a leader in our other communities.

2. In what ways are you building and growing yourself as a leader?

I never want to stop learning and growing. Perhaps this is why I find I make a great leader. I’m not stuck in my ways, I want to continue to grow and become better as time goes on. Yes, of course I have many weaknesses, but these are why I am who I am. I never want to say I’ll grow to have no weaknesses; I just want to be the best person I can be in all aspects of my life and never stop learning, wherever that direction is as time goes on.


3. In what ways do you see yourself leading within the next 5 years? How are you going to get there?

I see myself becoming a leader in the physical literacy community in the next few years. First step to accomplishing this is graduating with my undergraduate degree in June 2016.

I’m trying not to think too much about the future at the present moment, as I’m open to what it may hold for me. This is one of the benefits of being a student athlete, is that I will have career and sport choices to make in the next few years that will help guide me. As an athlete, I want to use that to my advantage to partner with causes I am passionate about, along with being a role model to people all over the world for living a healthy lifestyle and living your dreams, but I also want to be so much more than an athlete. I also want to have a career, have an enriching personal life, travel and try new things!

I know that whatever comes my way will be due to my hard work ethic, willingness to learn, open mindedness, and loving each step of the journey, wherever it might take me.
My biggest piece of advice is to remain open to whatever may come your way in your journey and remember to smile and enjoy the little things along the way.
While it may not be conventional, this is how I choose to lead.”

Grace Dafoe

A New Season Of Leadership

Dear Alumni,

The leaves are falling, the temperatures are dropping and our SLC Alumni Association is now one year old! With this new year ahead for us, it is time for us to open up the curtain and to show others just how we are leading as Alumni. This past year we have heard tremendous testimonials from our SLC Alumni who are all over the world doing amazing things in their unique form of leadership. From mentors to student leaders and professionals, we are now moving forward with these community voices for a brighter 2015-2016 year.

As we reflect on a successful 2014- 2015 season, it goes without saying that each one of you reading this blog has contributed to this community in various ways. Whether it was through a tweet, like or a simple text to a fellow Alumni, you have all brought energy and enthusiasm to the table. Through being connected in our community you have been supporting one another on various projects and personal challenges during each season of growth. You have lifted each other and praised one another both on an international and provincial level and you have all been an inspiration to more than just those in your own circle of influence.

As we look ahead to the 2015-2016 season let us grow together.  Stay tuned for our, “How I Lead” blog series and stay tuned to social media as we are on the verge of developing affiliate relationships with one major clothing line company and one institute of higher learning!

I truly believe that the core strengths of this SLC Alumni Association lie in our ability to connect, support, engage and promote all the amazing things we do to improve the lives of those we influence. Let’s take advantage of the 2015-2016 season by growing our network in numbers. Let’s reach out to old connections, let’s allow the SLC Alumni community and the community at large to see what we are capable of together as a leadership team. Let’s dig deeper, stretch further and push harder not because we have to, but because we can.

Ryan Blake Fahey

SLC Alumni Testimony: Alexandra Gayle

“On September 17th-21st I attended the PHE Student Leadership Conference that took place in Cedar Ridge, Bancroft, Ontario. I did not know what it would be like going into this Conference but the outcome was exactly what I needed. My Mentors and peers from all over Canada shared the same passion for Physical and Health Education which is to make a positive change in this world. This Conference gave me a new perspective on life and it ensured me that I want to be a leader and role model to others that I cross paths with. The five days I was there made me overcome my fears and connect with everyone around me in such a positive way. We were put in groups of ten and assigned two Mentors who guided us along the way us we faced daily challenges, tasks and physical activities. This experience gave me something that I am going to treasure for the rest of my life and it motivated me to strive for my career goal in life which is to be a Physical Education Teacher,  Coach and Mentor to the youth in the present and in the future.

When we all made it to the Ottawa airport, some of us still had a few hours to spare before our flights left back to our destinations. As I stood there and looked around, I remember feeling overwhelmed and how thankful I felt for being a part of such a memorable experience. I went from feeling afraid and shy to energetic and motivated more than ever and it was because all the Mentors and peers I had met had such an impactful bond with me. Words cannot explain the feeling of being surrounded by people who share the same passion and desire as you, it is something that I am going to have in the back of mind when I become a Mentor. When I arrived to the airport in Winnipeg, Joanne had stopped me and told me she had something for me from the Conference in her luggage. She took out a white PHE Conference jacket that I had put away and was going to purchase but I forgot about it and did not have cash for it. She handed it to me and said “The PHE committee and I wanted to thank you again for helping me do my presentation and sharing your experience with us” and she gave me a hug. I felt so thankful and proud; I hugged her back and thanked her for giving me the gift. When I wear that jacket, I am reminded that it is a token of thanks for speaking for my people and I reminisce about the amazing experience and smile.

Jason Dunkerely is one of the Mentors who I will never forget and he inspired me to live my life to the fullest. As I said before,  Jason is legally blind and he told us that he donated his kidney to his wife who is also blind. As we were faced with daily challenges, Jason did them with us with our guidance. When I saw him do the high ropes course and the vertical wall challenge, I almost shed a few tears because I was so inspired with his courage and strength. When I saw him do these challenges it made me realize that no matter what abilities you have, anything is possible if you try hard enough. Jason showed me that it is okay to take risks and trust others who are willing to help you. He is the most incredible and fearless person I have ever met and he taught me to never take my life for granted no matter what situation I am faced with. It also taught me that I do not have time for excuses and if I really want something in my life, I must work hard for it.
Being a part of a group gave me an insight to different ideas and it taught me valuable lessons that I will remember when I make decisions based on a situation I am placed in. We debriefed about the challenges that we were faced with and how it made us feel going through it. My group members had all different backgrounds and abilities that made us work well as a group and the support that we gave one another helped us face our fears. Even though all of the students and mentors were put in different groups, we all got along well and our positive energy made the experience worthwhile. Sharing our feelings with one another made us feel more connected and our bond got so much stronger over the past few days. This Conference was life changing for me and it gave me inspiration and knowledge that is valuable for my future career which is to be a Physical Education Teacher and coach the youth. It reassured my career choice and I gained friendships and connections with wonderful people who share the same passion as I do. Even though we are miles away from each other we still stay in touch and I know that the friendships we made with one another will continue to grow and all of us will make a positive change in this world.”

Thank you,  Alexandra! Keep inspiring others as you lead!

SLC Alumni Testimony: Jake Weidenhamer

“My name is Jake Weidenhamer, I am from southwest Manitoba, and I have a Bachelor of Physical Education Studies and a Bachelor of Education from Brandon University. I attended the PHE SLC in 2013, and I am a White Yetti.Jake 1

BU is a small University with a small PE faculty. In 2011 two students attended the SLC and in 2013, 5 of us decided we would see what it’s all about. I was very lucky to go with my roommate, 2 students that are roughly 10 years older than me and girl I didn’t really know, but have been dating since the conference. We had heard good things about the conference and heard that it would be a great learning experience and a lot of fun, but we had no idea what we were really in for.


Left to Right (Adam Martin, Rod McLeod, Kelly Whitmore, Jake Weidenhamer, Jon Filewich)

1. What moment(s) stand out for you the most from your SLC alumni experience?

One of my favorite memories from the SLC that I need to tell everyone whenever I talk about the SLC happened on the first night as soon as we got to the camp. After we had a chance to get settled in to camp we had what was the opening ceremonies to the conference. All of us were lead from the lodge area to the dining hall. When we entered the dining hall all the tables had been moved out of the way and there was music playing. As we were lead into the empty room a few people started to move to the music, eventually people started dancing, and before you could say anything every person in the room had broken out into spontaneous dance. No one had to say anything. Everyone was dancing having a blast with people they hadn’t even met yet. When the song finally stopped everyone including the mentors was surprised and impressed. I think this was a testament to the energy that all of us leaders carried with us into the conference, and how excited we were to be there. This is something that I will never forget, and I think is a very simple and easy way to explain the conference to people that have attended, and to convince people that are thinking about going on how amazing this experience can be.

2. Who impacted you the most at the SLC and why?

At the conference I had great mentors, Dan Robinson from St. FX who I know many of you will know, and Mark Verbeek, who is a Fitness & Wellness Consultant at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. But the mentor that I feel had the greatest effect on me was Dr. Nick Forsberg from the University of Regina. Nearing the end of the conference Dr. Forsberg said to us … to immerse yourselves back into your daily routines, but warned us ‘ that steam easily condenses back to its watery origins’. (Some of you may recognize this quote from the spring newsletter; I previously shared it with Ryan.) But for me and my Brandon University colleagues these words have embodied what we have done since we left the conference, and I will always remember them as I move forward in my career.

3. How has the SLC experience influenced where you are today!

First, a neat connection… I was just recently hired by a principal that is the father of a U of R Student I meet at the SLC. So that connection was great for me. Also, after returning from the conference Jon Filewich, (who also attended the conference with me from BU) was immediately talking about how we can take what we have learned and the energy and passion we have from this experience and channel it into something. After a few weeks we formed a non-profit business which we call PEDAL. It stands for Physical EDucation Activity Leadership, and through PEDAL inc. we have been able to host leadership conferences for high school students in southwestern Manitoba as well as many other activities. Along with promoting leadership among students we also aim to support BU students in their pursuit of the PHE SLC, and in 2014 we presented a BU student with $200 towards her expenses. We have since created the PEDAL Daryle McCannell Leadership Scholarship for Brandon University Students who wish to attend the PHE SLC. (Daryle is an amazing teacher at BU, our mentor and our friend and we couldn’t have done any of this without him.) We are super thrilled with the success of PEDAL and in May I and fellow PEDAL member Kelly Whitmore presented at the PHE National Conference in Banff AB, on the work that we have done and what we hope to continue to do.
It’s so hard to tell everything, while trying not to write a novel. But I always say that the SLC was a launching point for my career. It was as if an athlete went from eating fast food to a balanced diet, it really feels like it has propelled me to greater heights.


(Our Second Student Leadership Conference, October 2014, Brandon University)
For more information about PEDAL inc. you can check out our website or our Twitter. You can email Pedal or you can email me directly (jakeweidenhamer@gmail.com). We would love to hear from you.

Thanks to Ryan, if I didn’t meet you at the National Conference I wouldn’t have been able to share our story with the alumni. Keep up the great work, we appreciate it. “

Getting To Know: Scott Robertson

      I’m from Waterloo, Ontario. I grew up there and attended elementary and secondary school in the city, along with playing a variety of sports. I moved to St. Catharines, Ontario (near Niagara Falls) to attend Brock University pursuing a concurrent education degree focusing on Physical Education.

Scott Robs

      Far right: Scott Roberston

      I currently hold a couple of different professional roles. First off I am a masters student and Teaching Assistant in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Brock. My research is examining grade 9 student enjoyment in PE and intentions to enroll in further PE. The TAing that I do has been in activities based courses where I have helped to teach Kinesiology and Physical Education students about a variety of individual, dual and formal team games. I am also an Adventure Programmer, and Mentor with an organization called Youth University at Brock University. As an Adventure Programmer I facilitate team-building, leadership and celebration programs to a variety of school groups at a ropes course where participations play games, participating in team building activities, low ropes and climb high ropes/rock wall. I’m also responsible for supervising other staff as they facilitate similar programs. While my job title may be Adventure Programmer, I like to think of myself as a “Facilitator of Fun”.
       Aside from spending time with family and friends I really enjoy playing sports, and am often playing on a few different intramural teams during the year. I am also a certified cycle fit instructor, and while it may be a job, I enjoy teaching and participating in cycle fit (spin) classes. Mountain biking is another thing which I like to do, and living on the Niagara Escarpment I am lucky enough to have access to some nice trails to ride. I really enjoy cooking as well, and find being in the kitchen and being creative in what I make to be a stress relief.
       In 5 years I hope (and plan) to be happy and healthy. Professionally my dream/goal is to be a physical educator, inspiring a new generation to enjoy being active, and capable of finding activities which they would like to continue to pursue; however I think that there is more to life than just a profession, so I really just see myself being happy, surrounded by people I love and who love me.
      In May 2012 I was given the opportunity to travel to El Salvador with a group of peers and work with Phys. Ed. classes, future PE teachers, students of varying ages and national level coaches. I think it would be a really cool experience to sit down and have lunch with some of the PE teachers we met during that experience. The amount of teaching they do with minimal equipment or facilities is incredible and I think it would be amazing to be able to discuss their views on it and just to get to learn from them.

SLC Alumni Student Testimony: Shaemus Campbell

Last week we had a chance to sit down with 2014 SLC Student Alumni Shaemus Campbell.  Shaemus covers it all in his testimony by hitting the heart of what the SLC is all about and why our alumni group is the best group of leaders in the world. Not only do we willingly challenge ourselves with new strangers, we are willing to grow with them and stay connected following the SLC experience. Here is what Shaemus had to say:

What moment(s) stand out to you the most from your SLC experience?Shaemus SLC

“From the moment we stepped off the plane, I was able to gain a sense of what our few days together was going to be like. We were instantly welcomed and even cheered for by students from other universities which was an awesome feeling. The hour bus ride to the camp allowed time to mingle with some of the other students; and again this time together just reinforced how connected we would become. Right off the bat, we became new friends. I guess what I am trying to say is that what stands out to me the most from my SLC experience, is the strength of the camaraderie that we built in such a short period of time. That is something I am truly thankful for. I am so grateful to have met every one of you! We were all able to work together in any situation and conquer the task at hand. Know that every time I hear Ariana Grande-Break Free, I am thinking of you all! (And maybe busting a move or two). Oh, and the canoe trip, that was just awesome!

Which mentors influenced you the most and why?

I would have to say of all the mentors,  Jason Dunkerley influenced me the most. The amount of drive and determination that guy has is unbelievable. Through watching him complete the high ropes course, climbing the vertical wall, and seeing him on the canoe trip with us, it was just outstanding. I was fortunate to have Jason working with my group, so I got to spend a lot of time with him, and got to know him on more of a personal level. As a Canadian Paralympic Athlete, he serves as a role model for people across the world. Whenever I am faced with a challenge. I often think of Jason and the amount of inspiration he has given me.

Shaemus SLC 2

How has the SLC experience helped you get to where you are today as a leader?

The SLC experience has opened me up in a number of ways. It has encouraged me to think outside of the box, step outside of my comfort zone, take chances, and meet new people, all of which I believe are important in your role as a leader. I like to think that if I could gel with 50 new people in only four days, I will be able to do the same with my colleagues down the road. The SLC has helped me get to where I am today by the amount of opportunities it has provided me. During my time at the SLC, I was put in situations where I had to be a leader, be a follower, brainstormer and communicator to help others. All of these things, whether we think of them or not, help to shape and mold us into the leaders we are today. ”

Shaemus, you are the man!

Tee & Bandana Meetup: Friday, May 1st

Happy Friday alumni. You are likely on your way to work, class or doing some other task that occupies your regular Friday schedule. However, this is no ordinary Friday. Today as promised, is the official t shirt and meetup group launch party. Wherever you are in the world and no mattSLC Logo Croppeder what you are doing, take a moment to look up at the sky and enjoy being a part of such an empowering group of alumni. This alumni is not static, we are always changing as leaders and so too is this Association. With that in mind here is our big announcement.

On Friday, May 1st, 2015 we will be hosting an SLC Alumni Association meetup at the PHE Canada National Conference in Banff! This party will be a social ‘regathering’ of people who have shared in the SLC experience as either an administrator, a mentor or as a student. The meetup group will be a time for us to all come together at the conference to network and share ideas. The only admission for this social gathering is your SLC bandana. Thats right, all you need to do is bring your bandana with you to the Friday night sobindle phonecial (with your new t shirt too) and be ready for a fun time! Our social will last for about 1 hour before playing the secret Banff challenge. More details on this will be released soon!

Now, if you are not able to attend the conference and still want a t shirt, no problem at all. You can still be a part of this awesome meetup by tweeting the @slcalum using the #SLCalum. We will be tweeting live from the meetup and we will be able to connect you with other alumni and share ideas. Also, if you download the app called, “Bindle” and type in #SLCalum you can easily be a part of our conference chat!

Tee’s can be purchased for $25.00 anytime between now and April 4th by emailing info.slcalum@gmail.com with your size and quantity of shirts. Order yours today! We look forward to seeing you at the conference and online!

SLC Student Alumni Testimony: Cory McBean

Recently, we sat down with 2014 SLC student graduate Cory McBean to discuss his SLC experience. Here is what Cory had to say:

What Moment(s) stand out to you the most from your SLC experience?Cory McBean 2

“The biggest moment that stands out to me was the sense of community front the SLC experience. We came to the conference as strangers and we left as if we had known each other for years. This just goes to show how beneficial of a camp it is. There were many different opportunities to grow and to challenge yourself with numerous team building exercises from a high ropes course to going on a canoe trip and, in our case, having to paddle through rain and some moderate winds!

You have the opportunity to speak with leaders in your field and learn from them. One piece that I found to be very essential was having the time to speak with the mentors. This really opened my eyes to what I will be able to do once I graduate this spring and allowed me to think outside the box when it comes to my teaching and dealings with PHE Canada.

Which mentors influenced you the most and why?

“I would say there is no one mentor that influenced me above the others. I think that each and everyone of the mentors influenced me in ways that words can not express. Each of them brings something new and exciting to the table. The mentors come from all walks of life and have different life changing experiences that they were willing to share with everyone. The most important aspect that they all shared was the passion for health and wellness. They all wanted to be there and wanted to talk to you. These mentors were always able to talk and steer me with their advise.”

How has the SLC experience helped you get to where you are today as a leader?

Cory, McBean“When I first arrived at the conference I would say that I was a very shy individual. After coming to the camp I began to come out of my shell. I had to challenge myself and doing things that I thought I would never do. For one I was, and still am, terrified of heights. I never would have dreamed to have been up on a high ropes course and not completely freaked out. With the help of my group members I was able to go up and manage to get through the course. Upon leaving the conference I feel as though I am able to bond with any group that I am apart of. It is great to have experienced different activities that will be in my back pocket so I can enhance group cohesion in my future planning. I feel as though I am now more confident in myself to be able to speak up in groups and to take the lead on different aspects. I used to be the type of person who would be the silent leader. Now I feel as though I will be able to more a more vocal leader in the groups that I am involved with.”

We are excited as an Association to hear from Cory in the future as he continues to build his leadership. Cory is graduating in May from St Francis Xavier University and you can find him on twitter @mcwhatmcbean.