St Mary’s Youth Leadership Enrichment

In 2009 St Mary’s Youth Leadership Enrichment (SMYLE) was born after focus group results suggested that a feeling of isolation and lack of voice were common amongst the young people of the First Nations band. In 2010, through lots of hard work and perseverance, the group raised more than $36,000 to travel to Hawaii for the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Gathering.

The group meets every Monday night, and since day one has always featured a Health and Wellness component. They have organized and participated in health conferences, membership drives, exchanges with other youth groups around the country and a variety of other events. The group started as, and remains independent and member-driven, receiving support from the Chief of Council, but continuing to be led by the youth themselves.

Although spirituality has always played a part in the group’s philosophy, in recent months it has taken on a much larger role. The group aims to nurture and help develop future leaders, and Stephanie Francis, a group mentor, says “when kids have a better idea of who they are and where they come from, they can get a better sense of where they’re going”. As such, the group has put an increased importance on the art of storytelling, particularly how it relates to their own native heritage. The group invites elders from the community in to observe and participate, and in particular, share stories. Storytelling is an essential part of their history, and by hearing stories that relate to their own past, they are able to carry a new sense of identity into the future. Stay tuned, the group has lots planned for 2013!