Megan Murphy brushes a strand of strawberry blonde hair out of her face and begins: “We were supposed to spend around 60-80 hours on the project, but as of Wednesday it’ll be around 160. I’ve put a lot of work into this!”
She then explains how her files went from a folder to a 1-inch binder to a now massive binder brimming with paperwork. We’re both laughing at the thought of this binder-zilla.
We’ve been friends for the past three years – I met Megan in my very first Leadership class. I’ve always looked up to Megan, whether it’s because of the countless hours she spends working at Galt Little Theatre in Cambridge or the fact that she somehow always knows the answers to professors ‘ questions. But right now, as she tells me about her OL 480 project over coffee, I’ve never felt more proud.
The event she’s planning, “Service, Strength, Support – Males in Human Services” is an in-depth project she’s been working on since early in the fall term. While it is part of her Honours Leadership designation, I know she is doing this for more than just marks.
With just 70 students enrolled, the Leadership program is small, unique and embodies contemporary studies in every way. Many say it’s the only one of its kind in Canada. Part of the program’s uniqueness lies in combining theoretical approaches to leadership in the classroom with practical application outside the classroom. While many classes, such as CT 224 (Organizational Leadership), focus on the theoretical aspect of leadership, OL 480 Project Management Practicum does not. The 14 students enrolled in the class develop, coordinate and manage a project in a work placement. Far from a simple task, the whole process requires dedication, organization and most of all, time.
Not everyone chooses to work on an event. Some students do research in conjunction with a supervising organization. Other projects involve working with human resource or consulting firms. Justine MacMeekin’s, project with the Women’s Employment Resource Centre in Woodstock could span more than a year. She plans to continue her work with the organization even after the class ends.
Other students like Amanda Kelly work with an organization and develop a project that fits with the organization’s values. Amanda’s project involves creating a series of 10 workshops to make youngsters in the Boys and Girls Club of Brantford more aware of the effects of bullying. Some of the activities Amanda facilitated in the first three sessions ranged from discussions to creatively expressing personal feelings about what it means to bully and be bullied. The whole project is a huge challenge.
Before she could get to work on the bullying seminars, she had to build a relationship with the kids and gain their trust. Only after she got a feeling for who was who could she begin working. Yet more obstacles remain. “At the Boys and Girls Club we can’t make them do anything. We can’t say ‘you have to attend these sessions,’” says Amanda. The voluntary nature of the after school program means the group of kids changes every week. Other activities held in the center, like Wii Night, compete directly with her workshops. For her, it’s a huge lesson not only in creativity but also in patience.
It’s two in the afternoon and the Mohawk College gym is a sea of movement and restlessness. One –hundred-sixty Grade 7/8 boys fidget while Megan gives certificates of appreciation to the many, many volunteers who made her event a reality. The smiles on the volunteers’ faces show there is much hope for these young people. Today’s success will ultimately be measured in the number of these boys who go on to become paramedics, social workers, children’s service workers and the like.
While none of these projects are quite alike, they are all the same: just one of many steps that will shape these students into tomorrow’s leaders. Or maybe, they already are.