On the topics of resilience and overcoming challenges, St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) students are getting set to hear from renowned motivational speaker, Michel Chikwanine.
“I will also be speaking from my own experience as a former child soldier in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as a refugee, and the lessons that I learned from them,” says Chikwanine. “How I built up resilience despite all the negativity of that history, and the importance of community. It’s important for us to build very positive communities around us because it’s those communities that help us move forward.”
Chikwanine will be speaking with students across all grades as part of a regularly scheduled virtual Teacher Advisory Group (TAG) session on Thursday, January 13.
The TAG programme brings small groups of students together from different grades (in-person or virtually) with a faculty member to discuss a range of topics related to mental health and wellness.
“The goal is to prompt our students to consider the value of community, character, and resilience,” says Kristy Onyeaju, Assistant Head of the English Department at SMCS as well as founder and coordinator of the TAG programme. “These are the tenets of our TAG programme, and we wanted to start the year with a speaker who might inspire our students to reflect on these principles.”
Thursday’s discussion will be broadcast for the entire student community rather than presented to small groups.
Chikwanine became a motivational speaker following his graduation from high school in 2007 thanks to a job opportunity that took him across the United States, where he spoke at various inner-city schools. Throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to share the stage with well-known speakers such as Dr. Jane Goodall, world-famous conservationist, former prime minister Paul Martin, the Dalai Lama, and many more.
“Resiliency is incredibly important, especially when we’re faced with uncertainty, and life in general — as students are learning — is very uncertain,” says Chikwanine, speaking on the importance of resiliency in educating today’s student. “None of us know really what the future will hold, but the most important part is to never let any negativity or terrible things that happen to you be the only things that are important in your life.”
“Resiliency is moving forward despite how impossible or hard something seems. It’s important to push through because this builds resiliency and helps you grow as a human being and become a better person,” he adds. “For students who are going to be facing very uncertain futures with global warming and so many other issues that are going to be affecting our generation and their generation, it’s important for them to learn how to move forward. Never let any negativity put you down, but find the strength within yourself to overcome them, to challenge them, and to move forward.”
Upon listening to his presentation, Chikwanine hopes SMCS students come to understand that there isn’t anything they can’t overcome.
“The most important part of it is to keep your community around you and be a positive person,” says Chikwanine. “Being a positive person does not mean being a happy person all the time, it just means that your outlook on life is positive, that you want the best for yourself, your community, and the individuals around you.”
Chikwanine shares this advice for students looking to make a positive difference in the lives of others:
“It starts with small actions. A lot of people tend to think making a positive change, difference, or an impact on the world, you have to do this massive thing and have millions of dollars, but honestly making a difference is as simple as donating food to your local food bank. Maybe at school, you notice that somebody is being bullied or doesn’t talk or has a hard time interacting with people and you take a moment to go and say ‘hi’ and be kind to them. That in itself is being a positive person and making a difference in a person’s life.”
Michel Chikwanine will speak with students during TAG on Thursday, January 13.