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UCC Youth Leadership and Character Forum

Youth Leadership and Character Forum imparts life lessons

About 60 Upper Canada College students — already pegged as leaders by being chosen as stewards, prefects, heads of houses and Lang Scholars for the next school year — got a head start with their responsibilities this week by taking part in the third annual UCC Youth Leadership and Character Forum.

“The whole idea of the program was about how you discover your best self and who you’re going to be and what you’re going to do,” said UCC people and organizational development executive director Lara Koretsky, who organized the forum with Prep character integrator Laurie Fraser.

Things kicked off on Monday evening at McKinsey & Company’s Toronto headquarters, with Fraser addressing the boys about what makes them special and about the importance of a sense of belonging.

Five Old Boys then shared their stories.

Trevor Young

Trevor Young ’02 spoke to the students at McKinsey & Company.

Trevor Young ’02, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces until last December, emphasized resilience and positivity and related it to his army experience — stressing that you shouldn’t feel sorry for yourself but endeavour to motivate others.

Mark Ferley ’96, who teaches at the Prep, said people need help to discover when they’re at their best and how to replicate it because it’s difficult to do on your own. He closed by saying, “Be better tomorrow than you were today.”

Tom Lace ’06 has a business background and quoted Warren Buffett and Steve Jobs while also talking about two of his favourite business books. He suffered from severe post-concussion systems for two years, which drastically affected his lifestyle but led him to appreciate life more now that he’s fully healthy again. Lace told the boys that their happiness and what they stand for should drive their decision-making, and he asked them to take an hour a week to reflect and think about things, and to place a premium on learning and listening.

Ryan Klein ’08 talked about how he was deeply affected by the death of his classmate Jon Wookey. He was never athletic at school and claimed he couldn’t run around the block in Grade 11, but now he runs marathons in memory of his pal. Klein told the boys to set goals and strive to achieve them.

Loyan Issa

Loyan Issa ’12 led a discussion group.

Loyan Issa ’12 was the head of Wedd’s House and emphasized cohesion and made it a point to get to know each member of the boarding house better so he could relate to them in an effort to win the Prefects Cup. The house still finished near the bottom of the standings, but barriers were broken down, which ended up being more significant. “The process is always more important than the final result,” Issa said.

The students then broke into groups led by each of the five Old Boys and were asked to talk about their heroes and explain why they felt that way, and address the importance of leadership qualities. They reassembled to discuss their findings before the session came to a close.

Everyone, including UCC administration members and senior house advisers, reassembled at McKinsey the next day. The boys took part in group meetings about what creates a “flourishing individual” through exercises related to the PERMA framework, which revolves around: Positive emotion; Engagement; Relationships; Meaning/purpose; Accomplishment/achievement.

Myers–Briggs Type Indicator assessments were done and leadership profiles were distributed before lunch, and McKinsey director Bruce Simpson told his life story and took questions to open the afternoon session.

Principal Jim Power talked about leadership and character and then the boys broke out into groups based on their respective houses and were asked to develop a community service plan, make a personal declaration of character and leadership, and commit to what they’ll do individually and collectively.

“We’re not asking them to change the world,” said Koretsky. “We’re asking them to make small, incremental changes that will affect them and others positively.”

Things came to an end with the boys offering short descriptions of how they were feeling and what values they collectively discovered as a house.

“I think it went quite well,” said Koretsky. “The buzz seems to be that it was meaningful to the boys and interesting for them.”

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