BY DENNY SCOTT
Approximately 40 students, as well as about a dozen organizers and guest speakers converged on the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity (CCRC) last Wednesday as part of an Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE) program.
The program, which is part of the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) at St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School, saw local entrepreneurs and creative-industry representative go to the school to teach some of what they had learned.
The end goal of the day was for students, with the guidance of the guest speakers, to construct a program or conference that could be hosted at the CCRC by Blyth Arts and Cultural Initiative 14/19 in coming years.
Eight groups of five students each were tasked with creating proposals for either a conference or a program and 14/19 staff felt the program was a great success.
“It was a good day,” Rozalynn Schlosser, from 14/19 said. “The students were able to accomplish a lot.”
Project 14/19 Administrator Karen Stewart agreed, saying that there was a good structure in place for the program which helped the students work.
Matt Armstrong from 14/19 said that he felt the students were really engaged and worked hard, which helped them get a lot done. He said the calibre of guest speakers likely helped with that.
“We did have some fabulous professionals,” Stewart said.
The program welcomed local master gardener Rhea Hamilton Seeger; naturopathic doctor Angela Hanlon; musician, Goderich Livery Theatre general manager and Goderich Celtic Roots Festival and College Artistic Director Kate Johnston; musician Thomas Beard; local artist and teacher Greg Sherwood; former Benmiller Inn head Chef Spencer Vail; stilt walker Laura Astwood of the Ottawa Stilt Union; Rob Bundy of the Edge of Walton Challenge Course and Chris Lee of the Walton Raceway.
Stewart explained that 14/19 staff would meet with students to follow up this week but said that the feedback she has received has been positive so far, saying that students commented the different style of learning really reached them.
“We are seeing a lot of potential for future options for courses and conferences,” Stewart said. “The visual art show that was pitched shows promise and the fashion arts proposal could help grow the existing fashion arts program.”
Some of the ideas that came forward might be merged into parts of other conferences, according to Stewart, as a means of drawing more high school students to the CCRC’s programs.
Stewart was also surprised by several of the suggestions presented by the students.
The first surprise was that skills that students wanted to learn were the kind that used to be taught in programs like home economics.
“They identified these skills as being missing in school,” she said, talking about fashion design and culinary arts. “Those life skills just aren’t being addressed.”
The entrepreneurship group also provided a surprise that Stewart – a plan for conferences for the next year that was purely profit-driven.
“There was one student who was all about making money,” she said. “He was just all about the bottom line.”
The group, based on that student’s suggestion, had proposed tiered-pricing for conferences at the centre.
“It’s a really interesting idea instead of a one-price-fits-all system,” she said. “People attending the conference would pay a flat fee to get in and then pay for each additional course or speaker they were interested in.”
An example was having conference-goers talk to investors in a Dragons’ Den-style bidding session, which the attendees have to pay to get at. The “Dragons”, or venture capitalists, would not be paid to be there though.
“I thought that wouldn’t fly,” Stewart said. “However Chris Lee offered his knowledge and said that’s how things work. It was completely different than I thought it was going to be.”
Armstrong said the program was a good window to see what students were aware of in the county.
“It really helped us see how we can make students our target audience and reach them and it helped them to know about us,” he said.
Stewart said that the students at the event left her with a feeling of hope for the community.
“They were great kids,” she said. “They were socially responsible, bright and showed respect.”