My name is Dawson and I am one of the NSCF 2020 Co-Chairs. The National Student Commonwealth Forum (NSCF) was a life-changing experience for me. There has been no program, conference, or youth led group I have had the privilege to be involved in that has offered me such an enriching experience. Because of how profound of an impact NSCF had on me, I wanted to stay involved in the forum after my delegate year in 2017. Fortunately, NSCF offers its alumni the opportunity to apply to return as a Planning Team member (PT), which I took up.
As a PT in 2018, I was responsible for planning Cultural Evening, one of NSCF’s main events. In 2019, I was tasked with two PT positions: Registration Registrar and In-Town Recruitment. I am now in my final year with the forum, through which I’m serving as a co-chair alongside the incredible Anna Broaders, one of my closest friends.
Clearly, there has been something about the forum that has kept me involved year after year. Thus, my purpose of writing this blog post is to explain to you exactly what that is, and why I think NSCF was not only such a life-changing opportunity for me, but can also become the same for so many other youth across Canada.
As a delegate in 2017, I came into NSCF as a shy kid with little to no debating skills and less than a year’s public speaking experience after becoming President of my high school’s student council. I felt scared and intimidated by my lack of prior experience, as well as the prospect of meeting almost a hundred people from all different parts of the country. However, this all changed the second I stepped off the escalator in the Ottawa airport. Immediately, I was greeted by the warmest, most caring group of PT members who — in that moment and throughout the entire week — made everyone in attendance feel accepted, welcomed, and given the opportunity to improve and develop.
Two notable events where this took place were Senate Night (where delegates receive the opportunity to debate issues they care about inside the Canadian Senate) and the week’s capstone event, the mock Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). At both events, every delegate was individually encouraged to speak, and celebrated when they did so. I am the perfect example of how impactful their encouraging words were: when I tell people that I was a quiet kid before NSCF, they laugh because of how much the week brought me out of my shell. The intimidation I’d brought with me from my small town in Newfoundland melted away. I found myself speaking multiple times at both these events, discovering a newfound confidence in public speaking and debating. This experience followed me throughout both my academic and professional career, as I went on to participate in and contribute to things such as Model Parliament, Board Meetings, Executive Reports, and high level meetings. Without the confidence and skills I developed throughout the week of NSCF, none of that would be possible and for that I will forever be grateful.
Furthermore, NSCF provides youth from coast to coast to coast the opportunity to engage and interact with one another. Whether you’re someone from the largest city in the country to someone from a small, rural community, you have something amazing to learn from your peers, and NSCF is one of the rare opportunities where this happens. Myself being from Conception Bay South, Newfoundland, just coming to the city of Ottawa was a big step for me. For myself and many other rural youth at the conference, it was our first time bussing, our first taste of adult responsibility, and eventually for many, Ottawa became a city we thought of so fondly that we decided, “hey, let’s pack up and move here!”
It can be rather intimidating coming to such a “big” city when you are from rural areas in the country, but PT members and other delegates from major metropolitan areas always come together to make sure you feel safe and at home. Throughout my involvement in NSCF I have been and have watched delegates grow and experience the vast differences we face across the country. This has continued to create an understanding, compassionate group of youth.
The key piece of the NSCF puzzle that really bring things together is the amazing members of NSCF’s Planning Team. Year after year, this forum is so fortunate to have a group of people who volunteer their time to enrich the lives of youth to the absolute best of their ability — and it shows.
I have met some of the kindest, most passionate, and sweetest souls throughout this forum. Some of the most special people in my life, including my closest friends, have come from this forum and I know there are hundreds (if not thousands) of alumni across this country from its 47 years of existence who feel the same. It has been an experience that has made me strive to be a better person, to set higher goals, and to achieve more.
Anyone who has the chance to apply to NSCF should not hesitate to do so! If you decide to and happen to end up in Ottawa this spring, I truly hope you have as fulfilling an experience as I did.
NSCF 2020 Co-Chair