Leadership skills and mental health were the two main focuses as high school and university students packed the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Wednesday for the eighth annual Post-Secondary Leadership Symposium for Prince Albert and the North.
Event co-chair Melissa Smith said it was a bit overwhelming to see so many students attend, but they weren’t complaining.
“We had a lot more people than last year come, and it’s also a lot more exciting too, knowing that students are more interested this year than last year,” said Smith, a third year nursing student at the University of Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert campus. “That means last year we did something right. I’m just excited that they want to listen to our speakers and that they’re excited to see what we’ve planned for them.”
“It’s amazing to see so many students,” added Amber Thomas, another USask nursing student and member of the symposium volunteer planning committee. “It’s really nice watching all these future leaders walk in the door.”
Lt.Gov. Russ Mirasty and Mayor Greg Dionne welcomed students with some opening remarks before attendees listened to presentations by SHA Acute Mental Health Manager Adam Pearson, and Trauma Specialist and First Nations Child Advocate Deanna Ledoux.
Smith said organizers wanted to students an opportunity to meet others and share their experiences about leadership and mental health. The goal is to help students realize help is available if they need it.
“You never know you you’re going to meet here, who might have gone through the same problem as you,” Smith said. “I just want people to come out knowing that you’re not alone and that you’re more than capable.”
Roughly 500 students attended the last Leadership Symposium in 2023. Organizers didn’t have a final head count by press time, but said they exceeded that number in 2024.
Saskatchewan Polytechnic students Dylan Friesen and Barsh Badel were among those in attendance. Badel said they were grateful for the chance to hear from leaders like Mirasty.
“His story was good. It was inspiring,” he said. “It ignites the political aspect of me. Being into politics, getting to hear the stories of these politicians just inspires me.”
Badel said he hopes to use the experience to run for student body president at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. Friesen hopes to get into the business side of sports and someday run his own hockey team.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet people,” Friesen said of the conference. “I like hearing stories and I can learn from other peoples’ past opportunities as well.”