Alberta student shares strategies for leadership

By Georgia Black
Bishop's College
St. John's, Newfoundland

Alicia Lauersen, a junior high school student from Alberta, took centre stage at the Newfoundland and Labrador Student Leadership Conference and shared her experiences in the fight against child labour.

Lauersen was one of four keynote speakers to address the delegates during the Rise to the Challenge conference, which attracted 500 students to Booth Memorial High School from October 22 to 24.

Lauersen is the president of the Fort McMurray chapter of Free the Children, (Check out Katie Norman's story on the Free the Children campaign.) an organization concerned with child labour in third world countries. Still only fourteen years old, she has made presentations to the National Free the Children Conference in Ottawa, to the Human Rights Conference in Edmonton, and to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in Alberta.

She has managed to get a by-law passed in this town banning fireworks and soccer balls made by child labour. One of her many goals as president of her local chapter is to get premier Ralph Klein to sign the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child. Alberta is the only province in Canada not to have signed this document, the most widely ratified document in the history of the United Nations.

Lauersen began her speech with tips on how to become a successful youth leader. She urged the students to take control of their own futures, learn from their mistakes, don't over-work themselves and stay grounded.

"Try to create and maintain a balance. It's important to learn from others - their accomplishments and their mistakes. And don't be critical of others," said Lauersen.

Secondly, she noted that friends were key to a successful leader.

"If you have your friends' support, your powers are endless," Lauersen said, though they may not always be supportive of your decisions. "I know a bunch of my friends think I'm absolutely crazy for actually getting up and speaking like this."

Lastly, she dealt with the issue of convincing adults. Some may try to brush you off simply because of your age but if you persuade them that you do know what you're talking about and you don't give up, you certainly increase your chances of getting through to them.

Student activist Alicia Lauersen talks about gettng your point across
Clip 1 -"Adults can be one of..."

Dealing with the media as a teenager is incredibly sensitive, said Lauersen.

"They can make or break you. You must always be courteous, polite and respectful, while remaining credible. The press has been compared to a wild animal - you can earn its trust but don't mistreat it or you'll regret it, " she said.

Like CBC commentator Rex Murphy, who spoke earlier in the day, Lauersen also recommended that student leaders research their topic as widely as possible before their presentation. But if you do make a mistake or offend someone, apologize as soon as possible to whomever it may concern.

Lauersen defines leadership
to her audience
Clip 2 -"And that's basically what leadership is..."

Lauersen's definition of leadership varied a little from that of Murphy's.

"And's that's basically what leadership is...not being afraid to take chances, not being afraid to fail and being afraid to be different. Leadership is also about being the best you can be."

She, unlike her friends after seeing the video about child labour, wasn't afraid to voice her opinions and she encouraged the audience to do the same about what concerned them. As she stated so bluntly, "Don't be afraid to open your mouth!"

Lauersen closed her speech by telling the audience how much spirit they had, how friendly the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador had been to her and how we were all "really awesome." She only wished that Fort McMurray had as much energy!


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