Brandon School Division administrators, teachers and guidance counsellors were treated to a lesson in universal youth empowerment based on the Circle of Courage method during a special conference on Tuesday.
More than 90 BSD staff members attended the all-day conference led by Martin Brokenleg, Circle of Courage co-founder and consultant for Reclaiming Youth International.
For 30 years, Brokenleg was a professor of Native American studies at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. He has also been a director of The Neighborhood Youth Corps and has consulted and led training programs throughout North America, New Zealand and South Africa.
BSD aboriginal education specialist Amie Martin, who helped organize the speaking engagement, said Brokenleg addressed teachers concerns in regards to bullying and students at risk.
"They want to look at the Circle of Courage as an approach and implement it," Martin said. "But it will take a whole community to get into this, not just the schools, in order for something to happen."
The Circle of Courage is a philosophy that combines educational thought with the wisdom of indigenous cultures and emerging research on positive youth empowerment, Brokenleg said. The philosophy includes four core values and experiences which include belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.
"These are all basic human experiences that have been creating strong people for centuries," Brokenleg said.
The central theme of this model is that a set of shared values must exist in order to create environments that ultimately benefit everyone, he said.
Brokenleg stressed the fact that the model works to empower all youth, not just those of aboriginal descent.
"If we provide the right kinds of experiences we can create resiliency in all youth, that is to say, when life gets messy and knocks kids down the ability to get up again is the outcome if we provide the right kinds of experiences."
A strong relationship between a student and a teacher based on positive personal interactions can provide a source of strength, he said.
"Adults remember certain teachers because of the kindness that was in them, because of their hope and belief in us, because they brought out something good in us," he said. "There’s really no more powerful legacy that a human being can leave in the world than that."
Brokenleg said he hopes the Circle of Courage youth empowerment method becomes the "overarching dynamic" of any community and school.
"The curriculum effects the students mind and what the Circle of Courage is interested in is effecting the students heart inside, the emotion, the motivation of the spirt, the soul."