"240 days since we tentatively came together as strangers to explore the meaning of leadership," said Michelle Landsiedel in her valedictory address. "240 days since we became part of something bigger than us."
I love the use of "240 days" as it captures the breadth and scope of the experience in a way that "8 months" does not.
"In the last 240 days, we have all changed a little bit; life has thrown everything that it has at us: we've had babies, learned we were going to; our babies have had babies," said Landsiedel. "We've changed jobs, departments, careers, companies. We've gotten amazing news about our health, and we've gotten scary news that has changed what the future looks like for us. We've lost loved ones, we've rediscovered ourselves, said goodbye to relationships, and made life-long friends."
That's a whole lot of life to pack into 240 days, but this group of 25 leaders embraced it all and delivered positive change in our community and in themselves along every mile of this incredible journey.
I feel honoured that I had the opportunity to engage with these community leaders several times throughout the year. I was a celebrity judge at one of their first learning day activities which used the Celebrity Apprentice format to get them working together in groups.
With the support of media friends like Nolan Haukeness, Bianca Jade, Chandra Rempel, Morgan Modjeski, we took the class of leaders through a media training session that was both challenging (hard-hitting questions) and hilarious (thinking of Bianca banging Chad Penney with her microphone while he tried to answer questions from the other reporters).
Eleven of us became intimately familiar with one of the case study groups as we went through the TEDx Fort McMurray adventure. Starting with a nerve-wracking audition and ending with an intense and incredible presentation day in March, this experience was one of the most impactful that I've ever been through.
I attended a breakfast meeting with several of my Council colleagues that turned out to be a launch event for the new branding for the Centre of Hope, engineering in large part by yet another case study group going through the program. As they unveiled the new look, I watched as then Councillor Scott asked "Are these Leadership Wood Buffalo alumni?"
"No," I said. "These are members of the current class."
He was gobsmacked.
Another of the groups presented on the good work that's happening with the Social Prosperity project, bringing together multiple nonprofit organizations for a day of learning and sharing.
"Where do you want to go?" asked Landsiedel as the closing query in her address.
It's a great question with the unsaid, unfettered, unbelievable answer of "anywhere!"
"Now that we have the tools, the contacts and the credibility, what are we going to do to keep the momentum alive?" she asked.
"We need to show future Leadership Wood Buffalo graduates that the real work starts after we graduate. Because this isn't a high school graduation; we're not off to discover what we want to do with our lives, or what we want to be when we grow up. Each and every one of us has a vision for the future of this community and it is up to us to make sure that dreaming big isn't all we're doing."
Inspiring words, delivered with intent, purpose and complete conviction, marking the transition of the Class of 2011-2012 from students to alumni.
Take note of these names, because there is no doubt in my mind that if they haven't already, they will come into your atmosphere in the near future: Abdul Razak Kabadeh, Chad Penney, Conrad Newton, Gaurav Gupta, Jennifer Lamontagne, Jude Groves, June White, Karen Puga, Kelsey Stefanizyn, Krystal Ralph, Lena Abbasi Brujeni, Lisa Beaudry, Mariko Kerr, Mark Budd, Matt Youens, Matthew Creighton, Megan Megan Steiestøl, Michael Reid, Michelle Landsiedel, Moriam Sadiq, Myra Ross, Funmi Baiyewun, Regina Oppon, Rochelle Maitripala, and Trevor Boe.
Congratulations! And welcome to the growing alumni of over 100 graduates of the Leadership Wood Buffalo program.