Learn what makes COLS different from everything else out there!
This year marks the 40th anniversary of our seminar. Without the support of the dedicated volunteers every year, our sponsors, and ambassadors all of this would not be possible. We pride ourselves on offering this program annually to over 120 grade ten high schools from all over central Ontario, at no cost to them. COLS relies on donations from service clubs, corporations and small businesses, and private donors.
The seminar is run by a group of over 50 volunteers who each take on various tasks and roles throughout the planning stages as well as at the seminar. Most volunteers were once previous COLS ambassadors. However, many observed the program in action and wanted to become involved in this dynamic opportunity to promote youth leadership.
The main focus of the seminar is to teach students “how to think, not what to think.” By opening up communication channels and interactive panel discussions students are able to express their views in an accepting environment. Internationally recognized speakers are brought in to motivate the ambassadors during the weekend.
COLS is proud of providing a diverse range of speakers with various backgrounds, histories, and experiences to students each year. On each day of the seminar, students have the opportunity to listen to professional, entertaining, and informative motivational speakers. Our speakers provide valuable insight into issues facing students and young people today.
For example, speakers have talked about facing new experiences such as entering college or university. Others discuss the difference about seeing opportunities instead of obstacles when faced with difficult circumstances in their daily lives or future endeavours.
Team work and collaboration are important in all aspects of life. Leadership is developed through verbal and non-verbal communication. That is where group activities are so powerful to the growth of our ambassadors. Ambassadors progress through a series of activities over the course of the weekend. They begin by getting to know each other. Next, they cycle through six team building workshops that push them to think critically to solve unique problems.
On Saturday morning they work together on a volunteer project to give back to the community. Then they hone their communication and presentation skills through table topics. Before they leave on Sunday they reflect on their weekend together and the bonds they have created.
Junior and senior leaders facilitate unique activities in order to “break the ice” for a dynamic and unique group of students who have previously have never met.
The ambassadors attend six different team building stations, where as a a group they must work together to complete unique tasks that will also challenge their way of thinking and working together.
Ambassadors are given random topics which they must discuss, on the spot, for one minute. This encourages them to think on their feet about challenging issues as well as improving their public speaking skills and confidence in front of groups.
Ambassadors may not necessarily have to agree with the topic they are assigned as the purpose is to simply talk about the topic whether they know a little or a lot about it.
Every year all 120 ambassadors take part in a volunteer project to emphasize the importance of giving back to the community. In 2011, a food drive sculpture competition was held for the Mississauga Food Bank which generated over 766 pounds of food. In recent years, we have made milk bag mats that are sent overseas to developing countries.
Over the course of the weekend, students are engaged in a variety of discussion panels that change every year. COLS invites distinguished community, business, and government leaders to share their experiences and stories on a variety of topics and issues. Ambassadors are able to ask questions or comment on any matter raised during the panel or in smaller breakout groups that follow.
In addition to the other team building activities, this segment of the program requires students to pick an activity that they would not normally do in their everyday life. The students do not know the real activity until they arrive at their station. In 2017, students took part in martial arts, salsa dancing, cake decorating, improv, card making, and personal branding.
On Friday night, ambassadors take part in a free dance provided by Evolution DJ and are encouraged to socialize with others.
Then on Saturday night they take part in a variety show with their groups who each perform a 5 minute skit as it relates to the annual theme. These events promote communication, teamwork, and group planning.