PARRSBORO – It’s just a day. But what a difference a day can make, according to Sarah Colpitts.
The Grade 12 Parrsboro student is promoting the Nova Scotia Secondary School Students’ Association’s (NSSSA) Inclusion Conference, taking place April 6 at Sir John A. High School in Tantallon, on the South Shore.
“It’s really rewarding,” said the high schooler.
Colpitts was a delegate assistant at the same conference last year. The delegates themselves are special needs students “looking to develop their leadership skills.”
“There’s many people from Cumberland (attending),” she said, among them delegates, delegate assistants and workshop leaders called skill-builders.
The day-long event can be transformative, according to Colpitts. She said delegates may arrive shy and closed off. By the end of the day, they’re happy and loud and animated. She said delegates express a desire to come back each year.
It means so much to them, she said.
The publicist said the NSSSA is the only student-run secondary school leadership program of its kind in North America.
“They’re positive,” she said when asked to describe a positive leader.
They may not be the heads of their school governments, but they want to make a positive change – to be the change they wish to see, she said.
For delegates – who may have a physical condition, autism, Down syndrome or another potential barrier to inclusion – making them comfortable and giving them the opportunity to work with others in groups is a priority, she said.
A brochure for the event says its mission, in part, is to promote leadership in a safe “heroic” environment. Colpitts said students who get involved are going out on a limb and should be recognized for doing it.
The Grade 12 student said bonds can be built between assistants and delegates, and pairs can stay in touch.
The cost of participating is $50 per person and the rest of the expenses are paid by sponsors. Some schools helps students with the $50 and she’s aware of grant opportunities to cover the expense.
One of the two co-chairs for the event is Kathryn Hillier of Amherst.