“Just be yourself; after all, everyone else is already taken”- Oscar Wilde.
In a world with so much conflict and division, it is reassuring to know there is a place in which cohesiveness, acceptance, and inclusion still exist. The aspects of creating a welcoming culture and a foundation for uniqueness begin with the freedom to explore and develop an authentic sense of self. Students are trying out many new things between the ages of twelve through eighteen, including learning to be themselves. As a result, the continuum for creating a unique sense of self may shift from one day to the next.
As any parent may know, the process of establishing individuality is not without bumps and frustrations. Many young adults may question how can I be myself? What does this look like? For many, the struggle to be their own person seems too great, and instead, they opt to go with the standard choice of fitting into the group. Of course, being mainstream and part of a group is comfortable and an obvious choice, but what if the group is not a good fit or if this mindset limits one’s unique dreams? An underlining method of doing amazing things and genuinely feeling comfortable within one’s own skin is to accept one’s distinctive traits and aspirations. By expressing a genuine and authentic self, teens represent their character as one of quality and originality. This in turn attracts meaningful friends and fosters positive experiences.
At Seven Summits Centre for Learning, the culture is different and special. It is refreshing to hear students say, “You do you.” The struggle to learn, grow, and express requires a safe, supportive environment. At Seven Summits, the culture of acceptance is witnessed through students’ caring by helping one another, being free from acts of violence or bullying, and promoting community respect. The atmosphere is calm, relaxed, and, most of all, accepting. Curiosity and adventure provide life experiences for growth. Conversations with mentors, teachers, and other students can give answers to questions, lend support, and offer exposure to new ideas.
“I expressed myself most uniquely by joining the debate team," said Raya Delaire, a senior student. “We went to provincials as backups, but we were bumped into the live debate due to circumstance. Initially, we felt very out of our league until we got started. Soon I realized that debating was about listening to the other side's arguments for pertinent points and then framing the most valid points for the win. My exposure to acceptance for diversity and actively interacting with other people's point of view from Seven Summits prepared us for success.”
Whether by nature or nurture, one’s personality is shaped in an ongoing fashion. Every person represents a culmination of their personal events and experiences. These experiences have been learned from birth and continue for a lifetime. No two people have precisely the same life experiences, making each person unique and ever-evolving. To be authentic is to be unique. Trying on others’ ideas, outfits, vocabularies, and opinions can be tempting. Nevertheless, evaluating them according to how they suit and fit individual needs is a brave and bold approach.
“My favourite part about Seven Summits is at the beginning of the year when the whole school goes on a camping trip to get familiar with the cohort. This summer, I aspire to be a camp counsellor, as I found that passion from attending these trips. I believe that a student's exposure will help them determine their future personal path and uniquely be themselves,” said Delaire.