SACKVILLE, N.B. – A week jam-packed with all kinds of activities, sports, instruction and lots of fun came to a close on Sunday when participants of the annual Royal Canadian Legion Youth Leadership Camp were handed their ‘graduation’ certificates.
For the past 55 years the Legion has sponsored the annual camps, the focus of which is to boost self-confidence and develop leadership abilities in youths 16-18 years of age.
Camp director for the past 32 years, retired teacher and sports coach Judy Vautour from Moncton, said last week that the camp was going well.
“It’s going fabulously. At first they were a little anxious – they come from all over the province so most of them don’t know each other. But we do all sorts of ice-breaker events so by the end of the first evening they’ve all created lots of new friendships,” she said.
Vautour explained that the camp uses sports to teach youths leadership techniques and skills and how to teach progressively.
“On the first day we have two male and two female instructors work with the students but beginning on Tuesday, and for the remainder of the camp, they take on the role of leadership and everyone learns how to lead and instruct by doing that themselves,” she said.
During a classroom session on the first day they learn the roles of leadership, different methods of communication, various ways to lead in most any situation, Vautour explained. Then each youth is assigned an event or sport which they will be required to teach to their fellow camp participants.
“These are activities or sports that the students know very little about so they have to do research by themselves to find out how the sport or activity is played; then they have to apply the techniques they’ve been taught, to teach the others how to play it too. There’s a lot of skills involved in this exercise and the students learn a lot from doing it,” she said.
Vautour also noted that much of what participants learn during the camp is recorded in a detailed notebook, which they can also use as a reference for other activities during the week-long camp. As part of the camp, among other aspects, instructors evaluate the participants on what they have recorded in their notebooks.
“These notebooks have a lot of good information in them by the end of the week and many of the campers apply that information to many leadership situations in the years to come. I keep in touch with some previous campers and many of them tell me they still have their notebooks years later and still use the information contained in them when dealing with many life and work situations,” she said.
Students 16-18 years of age – 30 male and 30 female – are chosen from many applications to the program each year. High schools throughout the province are notified early in the year and teachers and guidance counsellors are asked to encourage several students from their school to apply to attend the camp. Cost of tuition for the camp is paid for by the provincial legion, with students being asked to kick in just $100.
“Sometimes local legion branches will pay that $100 for their area students, particularly if there is a financial need,” she said.
After 32 years of being camp director, Vautour said she’s seen a multitude of participants go on to hold prominent positions in society; from doctors, lawyers, politicians and throughout many areas of business and industry.
“(Former New Brunswick premier) Bernard Lord was a camper in the leadership camp and I think that what he learned served him well,” Vautour said.
Sackville resident Jeff LeBlanc, a 2011 graduate of TRHS who will begin his third year studying kinesiology at Saint Francis Xavier University in Antigonish this fall, said Monday that what he learned as a camp participant has also served him well in the three years since he attended the legion leadership camp.
“It was a great experience; there was a concentration on developing leadership and social skills. It was all about getting out of your comfort zone…we develop better communication skills and better overall initiative and leadership skills and self-confidence. We were very active, we kept very busy; but at the end of the week nobody wanted to go home,” he said.
LeBlanc added that he’s used some of the skills to help him teach a number of classes in various subjects over the past three years.
“It was a lot of fun, we met a lot of people and made new friends, and I learned a lot about what it takes to be in a position of leadership. It’s an excellent camp and I encourage other students to take part in it if they have the chance,” he said.