John McCrae Secondary School Leadership Camp

Being the Camp Coordinator with Pujan Thakrar has been one of the most satisfying and rewarding school experiences.  Every year John  McCrae Secondary School holds a 2.5 day Leadership Camp and it’s organized by two selected grade 11 and 12 students. The camp allows 65 students (grades 9-12) to attend and there is an application process since there is such a demand for this amazing camp.  I really think it’s programs like this that helps make our school stand out. The coolest part about the camp is that it is completely run and organized by students with the help and supervision of a few teachers. It’s fascinating being able to run a full camp successfully without that authority of teachers. That’s when you know that the students there are great people!

The application process was long to go through them, but they were absolutely incredible! I was inspired and touched by how much time, effort and creativity everyone put in to making them great. So many of the applications were great representations of who they were. By looking through the applications, we picked who would be delegates and which 10 students in grade 11 or 12 would be the Skill Builders. The applications required them to answer 5 specific questions about leadership.

Just a few samples of the applications

 Skill Builders-Students are the group captains. There are 2 captains for each team.  They run the sessions and take care of their won group of 10 delegates.
Delegates: students who is part of each group.

The whole purpose of the camp is to have students work together in a safe, confidential and open environment where we can learn about ourselves and also learn how to work on our team building skills. We want to develop as many leaders (they come in all forms) as possible to make our school the best it can be.  These leaders will transfer everything they’ve learned into all areas of their life.  I’ve attended the camp for my first 2 years of high school and I loved it, so this was an exciting opportunity to see how to organize a camp.

Pujan and I had our first meeting 9 months ago in the summer to start the planning process since there is so much involved and we both have very busy schedules.  I think we were perfect partners since our personalities and strengths are different so we balanced each other out but had things in common so we got along really well.  Pujan was such a pleasure to work with!

Leadership Camp Coordinators Pujan Thakrar and Kayla Maduk

We had to decide and plan on:

  • a theme for the camp – we chose the Olympics  theme (I might have been a little passionate about that choice 🙂 )
  • book an overnight location that had enough cabins and the appropriate facilities for our needs
  • budget, so we knew where the money was coming from, how much we had and where it was going.
  • activities for an Ice Breaker night at the school and then 2 full days/nights of activities
  • guest speaker from the City of Ottawa on Youths making a difference in the community
  • book bus transportation to/from the camp
  • supplies for all activities that we planned
  • review all the applications for the camp since we are only allowed to take 65 students and choosing the delegates and skill builders
  • assign 5 groups plus their skill builders based on their applications and personality types .  Each group represented 1 of the  5 Olympic rings. After they chose a sport for their group. They wore costumes that relate to their team all weekend for team bonding.  Keeping people out of their comfort zone also allows them to be more open to participate and grow more as individuals.  You have to leave your pride at home, and be willing to be goofy outgoing.
  • design and order camp t-shirts for everyone
  • create, design and print the booklet for everyone to follow – the booklet  is full of quotes, the sessions that everyone will go through, and little quizzes and stories
  • lists, lists and more lists…….and meetings, meetings and more meetings!

The first page of our booklets reads….. 



Congratulations on making it as participant in this year’s Leadership Camp! This is your chance to get to know yourself and other students at John McCrae and to become the champion that you truly are! We hope that you keep an open mind and take risks through camp and make the most of this experience. You will learn useful skills over the next few days that you can apply to your everyday life so make the most of this opportunity but more importantly have fun!

As skill builders and delegates, we want you to soak up as much as possible while having fun! Try to recognize the importance, meaning and usefulness of everything you will experience with your group!

Here are some key steps to making your camp experience AWESOME!!

Take risks: Step out of your comfort zone! Try something new! Gooo with the floooow! The best part about camp is experiencing new things and you won’t be going through it alone! You have a whole group to help you out!

Keep an open mind: It’s simple. Don’t judge it. Don’t criticize it. Just try it.

Trust your group members: If you share with them, they will share with you. Have confidence in the Four Wall Rule and the Right to Pass.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help: You will always be able to find someone who is willing to help! Just ask!

EAT. CANDY. : It’s pretty straightforward. Your dentist is not here! Neither is your mom!

We are so excited to see you all at camp! Show tons of enthusiasm, have lots of fun and more importantly BE YOURSELF!

Your camp coordinators

Kayla and Puj


The topics of the camp include:

  • Communication Skills
  • Trust and Taking Risks
  • Leadership and Youth Involvement in the Community
  • Stress and Time Management
  • Problem Solving
  • Goal Setting
  • How to Implement Everything we Learned at Camp

Ice Breaker Night- The first time we are all together and were divided into the groups.  Let the games begin!

The full group at the Ice Breaker Night

The 5 amazing teams of Delegates and their 2 Skill Builders

Ping Pong
Speed  Walkers

The games and activities may sound silly or juvenile but they are all designed with a specific lesson and reason to push you out of your comfort zone. The games/challenges force you to trust your team mates.  We chose these activities from previous camps that were successful and we also did a lot 0f research finding new activities.  I was happy that we were able to include my 5 step goal setting program that I created and use in my own workshops.  It always amazes me how open people are to talk about ‘real’ issues in this type of environment.  I think being away at a remote location really helps.  You really have to come to the camp with an open mind and just be willing to be YOURSELF.  That is why there is the selection and application process.  We really want to make sure that people are there for the right reasons.  Every single person that attends the camp always feels so much better about themselves and their abilities after the camp.  There is so much positive reinforcement given to everyone and very close friendships develop that wouldn’t normally happen in the everyday environment.  There is no judgement or criticism.  All these new relationships just make high school living that much more fun.  The positive energy is contagious.

Our hourly schedule of events for the whole camp
Off to camp – ready for anything and everything 🙂

I had so many incredible highlights at camp. I loved every single moment of it. I have to admit, it’s quite stressful even when all the work is done because Pujan and I really wanted the camp to run smoothly.  We wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and hopefully not have to deal with any major hick-ups. I had so many moments when the whole group was together, where I got to take a step back and truly realized and appreciate what Pujan and I had created. It was such a cool feeling. The atmosphere was incredible. It was so full of love, life, happiness, growth and warmth in so many ways. It was a place where everyone could feel accepted, appreciated, supported and a place they could be completely themselves. It was magic if you ask me. It’s where I suddenly realized that, wow, this is what it is all about, and THIS is why our school is so incredibly awesome. It’s because of camps and programs like these. It’s hard to describe.

At the end of camp, we do something called warm fuzzies. It’s where you write warm notes to friends and new friends you made at camp. It’s all positive and these messages are to take the time to tell people how beautiful they are, inside and out. I was touched by all the  personal notes from everyone on what they thought of the camp and how appreciative they were.  The feedback was amazing and it just goes to prove why these camps are important and why they need to happen every year!  I STRONGLY urge everyone at JMSS to attend at least one Leadership Camp in their 4 years of high school.  I promise it will change your life for the better. Just remember….go with an open mind and leave be willing to challenge yourself.

We couldn’t have had the camp without the help of:

  • Mr. Schultz for providing the funding for camp and allowing us to make LC 2013 a reality
  • Mrs. Henry and Mrs. Potter for all the support and guidance.  Not to mention all the hours that they put in too
  • The administration for coordinating all the fees and paperwork
  • The teachers who came to supervise the camp
  • Skill Builders for all the time they put in and the dedication to the your delegates
  • Delegates for coming to camp and opening up to everything the camp had to offer
  • Gary Frederick at GDF PRO for making the awesome t-shirts
  • Camp Bonnenfant for allowing us to host LC2013 at your campsite once again

I feel so lucky and privileged to have gotten the opportunity to organize the camp this year. I learned a lot about how much goes into organizing a huge event like this. I have grown a lot from it and I have realized how much I love team building, leadership programs and motivational environments. Who knows, maybe I will get to do more of this type of thing when I am older as a career. I would love to do team building and motivational speaking with either Elite athletes or even corporate companies.  Thanks to everyone who was apart of this incredible experience.


A special thanks to everyone who shared pictures with me!