We Want to Set Sail with You

I like what I’m hearing from today’s emerging leaders.

Last month, the first ever National Recreation Summit was held in Lake Louise, Alberta. Two hundred “thought leaders” were in attendance from each of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories. Since the Summit was also seen as an opportunity to involve young people, a core group of recreation and leisure studies students were also recruited to serve as meeting recorders. While initially it seemed to be a good idea, and students were delighted to be part of such an exciting initiative with all expenses paid, the reality was tougher than anticipated. While their typing skills were sharpened and they learned a great deal about critical issues that included increasing physical activity (especially among children and youth), managing the critical afterschool hours, improving physical literacy, enhancing mass participation in sport, and the significant role community building can play, they had little opportunity to share their thoughts and perspectives during the first two days.

As a result, a last minute decision was made to invite a summary of the feedback and recommendations from all students in a brief plenary address to Summit delegates on the third and final day.

Maria Lynn, a graduate student at the University of Alberta, did us all proud. In sharing a number of key observations and insights from the students, she served as an ambassador for youth and young professionals, reminding us of the key role they can play in shaping our future.

For many it was the highlight of the Summit, moving most to tears and all to their feet in a heartfelt and enthusiastic standing ovation.

Maria pointed out that in the field of recreation and parks - and no doubt in many other fields as well – there is room for improvement. They find this exciting and stimulating and want to be part of the changes. 

They were also inspired, pleasantly surprised, and refreshed by the passion that is still out there. She explained that as a younger generation, they sometimes felt those ahead of them had lost the fire for what really matters.

Their connection to the field via the Summit was also seen as valuable because it expanded academic concepts and theories to the realities of the field. Students stressed the importance of having more alternative learning environments and opportunities on a regular basis.

From there, Maria went on to share three key insights. The first had to do with technology. As she pointed out to the audience made up primarily of Boomers, “Technology is here to stay…and because it is here to stay, we have to think of it as an opportunity…incorporate it into our practices, communication, engagement, advocacy, and in the creation of meaningful social movements and community building that can reach a wide span of people. We can’t be afraid of technology or avoid it… Social media is a space where ideas are born, where ideas are shared, where they move, change, grow, are challenged, and contested, and then reborn again.”

Their next astute insight was about the missing, alternative, minority, multicultural, and marginalized voices, and the need for opposing, outward, and varied views to develop the best solutions. 

Lastly, they addressed the subject of innovation – a key theme at the Summit. The students made it clear that their generation embraces and are used to change and innovative thinking. As change is part of their daily lives, they respectively suggested that students and young professionals can be a hub of innovation and outward thinking just as we are a source of experience and expertise for them.

They reminded us that they want and need to be part of the solutions. As Maria put it so eloquently, if our field were a ship, and we were on that ship trying to build a strong mast to weather us through the storm, the message from students and young professionals to us would be this, “We want to set sail with you. We aren’t afraid of the storm.” 

Posted on 11-26-11


Great reminder, Brenda, of the potential of the future generations - and their willingness to contribute.

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  11/28/11  at  04:50 PM

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