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Students and adults learn leadership

By Paul Paproski, OSB


MUENSTER, Sask. — The grounds of St. Peter’s Abbey and the facilities of St. Peter’s College were ideal settings May 16 - 20 for members of James Smith Cree Nation who attended sessions of Life Skills and Leadership from the Heart. Participants enjoyed the outdoor scenery, and the college introduced them to university life, said James Anderson, 38, motivational speaker of Minneapolis, Minn.

The Life Skills workshop was attended by 30 high school students of James Smith Reserve who experienced university life by attending sessions in college classrooms, staying in student rooms and eating in a college cafeteria, Anderson remarked. The personal setting brought them beyond what they read about in pamphlets or the Internet.

The high school students took part in a seminar called Recipe for Success that emphasized personal development and setting goals. They were encouraged to prepare for university by creating a plan; becoming aware of the right tools for meeting goals; surrounding themselves with teams and taking action. All these are important tools to bring to post-secondary education which is a means to a brighter future.

“You must believe you can be successful. If you don’t believe you can be successful then nothing matters. You must believe you can go to college,” Anderson said in an interview. Students who want to pursue a career must know that they need to reach that goal. A number of students informed Anderson they want to attend university and some expressed the desire to become athletes, artists, lawyers and business owners. Many career choices were discussed. Courses are even offered on creating video games.

“The goal for the students is to know how to find the necessary tools for success. I can’t tell them exactly which tools those are, but I can tell them how to find positive reading material and know how to have a purpose,” Anderson said. A list was provided of books and audio programs to build a positive mindset.

High schools and universities have information on achieving degrees, but not on cultivating the positive thinking needed to persevere, Anderson commented. The Life Skills session promoted the desire to have a passion for life and pursue goals. The students, Anderson said, were attentive to the sessions and expressed how they wanted to be successful.

“Everyone was reminded that life has its ups and downs. When we are up, keep going. There will be a point when we get discouraged. Keep working at it. Life has ups and downs. Life is not a straight line. The heart monitor in a hospital displays lines going up and down when a heart is beating. A straight line is a sign of death.”

The Leadership From the Heart sessions were attended by 11 adults who were given instruction on leadership and positive thinking. Participants reflected on themes and then addressed them through public speaking in front of peers. The peers evaluated the presentations which were based on five outstanding criteria: presence, projection, enthusiasm, conviction and heart.

The evaluations had the purpose of making everyone aware of how our thinking influences perceptions of ourselves and interactions with others. Attitudes are expressed in the way one communicates through words, body language and mannerisms. The feedback from the peers pointed out weaknesses and strengths.

“We want people to break through barriers so they can reach new heights. Your thoughts affect your actions and results. Your way of thinking can be an empowerment circle or a disempowerment circle. You will have positive habits or negative habits. We want to change the negative to positive.”

The adults who took part in the Leadership From the Heart sessions have the potential to be community leaders and make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. They were informed that they will always have challenges and the challenges may increase as more goals are set. People have the choice to look on their issues as opportunities or problems.

“The sessions were very emotional, very energetic, very exciting. These people are not used to public speaking. We practiced being good speakers. These are skills we are not born with. The sessions were harsh for some, but life is harsh. The goal is to celebrate life. Plants need both sun and rain to grow. There needs to be a balance of sun and rain to bring positive energy. It is not talent that separates people. It is putting in the daily actions. The little steps create the amazing results.”

Anderson, owner of James Anderson Productions and Training, and LifeSkills Business, is a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Lake Superior Band of Ojibwe in Northern Wisc. and Choctaw Nation, Okla. Anderson has led leadership training seminars for business leaders, American Indian organizations, and university students in the United States and Canada.

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