‘Giving back’ to high-schoolers

High school students from the Kitchener-Waterloo area spent the day at Wilfrid Laurier University on Friday for Beating the Odds, an annual conference hosted by the Association of Black Students (ABS).

At the event, students participated in workshops and listened to speakers geared towards promoting self-worth and a brighter outlook on the future.

Beating the Odds was created in response to a study done by Laurier alumnus, David Green, who discovered a high level of dropout rates locally.

“ABS decided to give back to the K-W community by hosting this conference,” Bianca Lambert, coordinator of this year’s Beating the Odds conference, explained.

This year’s theme was “Limitless, what will you conquer today? What will you conquer tomorrow?” Lambert also made it her goal to have mental health as a theme of this conference.

“Mental health is something that is not discussed or talked about in the black community, so I wanted to specifically deal with [the fact that] everybody thinks of mental health as a stigma or a mental illness, where mental health can deal with stress, as well as anxiety,” Lambert said.

The event was held in the Turret and involved ten to 11 high schools from the Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge area.

There were two workshops that were held over the course of the day. The first one was titled “Perseverance” and involved workshop leaders talking to students about dealing with stress and how they overcame obstacles in their own lives.

The second workshop was called “Define Yourself.”  Here, students did an activity that emphasized the fact that their life experiences do not define them. Rather, they have to define themselves.

“This is the only workshop like this that I can go to. It helps remind us of our value,” Chrystel Bonda, a student from Forest Heights Collegiate Institute who attended the conference, explained.

Beating the Odds started out with 30 students participating and has now grown to approximately 100 students.

“I hope these kids are having as much fun as I am currently,” Pauline Janke, a teacher from Jacob Hespeler Secondary School commented.

According to Lambert, this year’s conference was a success.

“From what I heard from a lot of the team leaders, the kids got really emotional. They were able to connect to the theme, which is what I wanted. I was happy with how it went,” Lambert concluded.

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