Canada trip provides life lessons for teens

Jessi Rickerson of Westfield Academy and Central School; Christine Wdowiasz of Brocton Central School; Jackson Janicki and Alexander Godfrey, both of Chautauqua Lake Central School took part in the Student Leadership Award Program for Students High On Training.

Four local high school students participated in the Rotary District 7090 “SLAPSHOT” or “Student Leadership Award Program for Students High On Training” weekend experience earlier this month at The Adventure Learning Centre at Canterbury Hills, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada. The four young leaders and their respective school districts were Jessi Rickerson of Westfield Academy and Central School; Christine Wdowiasz of Brocton Central School; Jackson Janicki and Alexander Godfrey, both of Chautauqua Lake Central School.

Their leadership camp experience was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville. It was organized by Dan Smith, Westfield-Mayville Rotary’s Youth Services Chair and Rotary District 7090 Vocational Training Team US Chair. The Westfield-Mayville Rotarians who transported the four teens to and from Ancaster were Sue Hammond, Jim Wakeman, Patty Benton, and Steve Stratton.

SLAPSHOT offers 100 high school students throughout Rotary District 7090 in the U.S. and Canada the opportunity for a fun learning experience in an adventure camp that is located in the picturesque Dundas Valley Conservation Area. Its main focus is to foster the development of leadership, positive self-esteem, and teamwork in youth of the ages of 15 to 18 years.

This was the 14th year of this Rotary District 7090 program that promotes, honors, celebrates, and fosters leadership in teens. The Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club has proudly sponsored local teens for all 14 years of this program. Each Rotary Club may sponsor up to five SLAPSHOT students, and school districts select the students.

The program’s desired outcome is that participants will gain confidence and the necessary skills that will enable them to make a positive difference in their schools, local communities, and beyond.

The program is run by Rotary District 7090 members from Buffalo, Niagara, Hamilton and Brantford in collaboration with the expert team members from Adventureworks, who are growth facilitators and operators of a high ropes course that is a feature of the weekend’s activities.

The four participants sponsored by the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club and their parents were invited to attend the May 14 meeting of this Rotary club so that the students could share highlights of their experience. SLAPSHOT students Wdowiasz, Janicki, and Godfrey were present at the session, which was held at the Lakeshore Assembly of God Church in Westfield. Rickerson, the fourth participant, attended the Westfield-Mayville Rotary’s May 21 meeting.

During the May 14 meeting, Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club Immediate Past President Janese Berkhouse welcomed the students and their parents. Rotarian Dan Smith introduced the SLAPSHOT teens and briefly explained the program. He said, “Having the participants return, excitedly describe their weekend leadership camp experience, and tell us how it empowered them is the sizzle of what it’s all about. The 100 students who attend stay two nights in cabins with others they do not know at all. SLAPSHOT is a new opportunity for students to gather for fun and fellowship, to express themselves in new ways, and to learn more about themselves as they gain leadership skills and enhanced confidence.”

Smith added that SLAPSHOT, which is one of Rotary’s several youth services programs, was founded on the ideals of Rotary. The Object of Rotary includes the following: The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service; high ethical standards; the application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life; and the advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service. Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self.”

Rickerson, a junior, said, “My experience with SLAPSHOT taught me numerous things. It taught me leadership skills and a lot about who I am. By stepping out of my comfort zone and going to a new place, without familiar faces, it brought something new within me. My favorite part by far was the campfire and meeting new friends. Thank you to Rotary for this opportunity.”

Wdowiasz is a sophomore and member of her school’s Interact Club, which is the high school service organization affiliated with Rotary International. She stated, “I am very thankful for being able to have this experience. It was a very fun weekend. My favorite part was the different team building activities. My team members and I had to hold strings that were attached to one marker, and we had to work together to draw something. We drew the Eiffel Tower. Though our team came in last, we learned to be patient. Another highlight for me was creating and performing a skit with my cabin mates on the topic of high expectations.”

Janicki, a sophomore, said, “The best thing about SLAPSHOT was meeting all of the people. Everyone was so accepting. My cabin mates and I still have a daily group chat. On the first night we had to put on a talent show. One guy in our cabin had a guitar, and even though I’m not much of a singer, we managed to pull off a couple of songs. Also, our cabin’s skit on the topic of how technology can affect younger generations went well. The night before we were to do the ropes course, it rained. I was the first one to climb up the ropes. When I went on the tires, I dumped gallons of water on the guy below, who happened to be Alex Godfrey, my cabin mate and school friend.”

Godfrey, also a sophomore, also spoke about his experience.

“On the first night we had to do a talent show, but no one in our cabin had a talent or brought musical instruments. So, we elected one guy who appeared to be the biggest and strongest to play the role of the strong man and see how many of us he could lift. The next day we did the ropes course, and it was super fun, even though I got really wet. Also, the motivational speaker’s presentation on different personalities was very interesting. I hope to work with others to reenergize my school’s Interact Club.”

The Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville congratulates all four for having the courage to attend SLAPSHOT and for sharing highlights of their experience. It invites them to utilize their newfound leadership skills and confidence to engage in meaningful service opportunities in their schools, communities and beyond.