Giving the gift of opportunity

By Vivian Collings

We are really good at giving the gift of experiences here in the Highlands; especially to our kids and youth.

That makes my heart full. It makes me really proud to live in this community.

I think it’s something maybe more important to our future generations than we realize.

A couple of weeks ago was the opening of Haliburton Highlands Secondary School’s annual exhibition at Rails End Gallery.

The exhibit is called Forgotten, a word decided on by the Grade 12 visual arts students themselves, but I hope the experience is something they will always remember.

“Students have a lot to say, and being able to share their voice with the community and making their work visible is really important to honouring that expression,” said Karen Gervais, visual arts teacher at HHSS.

Amid the uncertainty and confusion surrounding talk of a potential long CUPE strike, the students didn’t let it crush their opportunity.

Each student hung their art piece on the wall of the gallery beside their artist statement; sharing their deepest thoughts and the most vulnerable parts of themselves with the community.

I remember very vividly when the same opportunity was given to my Grade 12 art class years ago. 

I had to speak about my piece and explain the theme of our exhibit to a room full of guests.

I was really scared at the time.

Looking back, though, I realize it was one of those experiences that shaped me, all because I was given the opportunity to share my voice with the community.

It was actually at that same exhibit in my Grade 12 year where I met Emily Stonehouse.

She had just moved back to the area and was a reporter at the time. She approached me in the gallery and was so interested to hear about my art, where I got my inspiration from, and what the experience of having it hung in a gallery was like.

Clearly, I never forgot that interaction.

I remember thinking that I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be the one making someone else feel like what they have to say is important.

How funny is life?

Five years later, Emily and I are now working together as editors, getting to do just that.

I was also lucky enough to watch Camp Camexicanus’ performance of School of Rock last week.

The play was both directed and performed by local youth.

What an amazing opportunity for the kids involved.

They got to direct, sing, dance, and act in front of a full theatre of people. That’s something I’m sure they’ll carry with them forever. Maybe, some will even want to pursue a stage career even further.

Robin Carmount just won Highlander of the Year for giving kids the opportunity to let loose and be themselves at his Youth Nights and for his Haliburton County Youth Sailing Association in the summer.

His programs are much more than the activities themselves.

They allow for kids to find and build their confidence to then become adults that have the self-assuredness to reach for their goals.

No matter how many years ago, that was me and you. We were young kids or teenagers looking for opportunities to allow us to grow and give us the necessary confidence boost to succeed.

Let’s make sure that we continue giving the gift of opportunity to kids, as well as offering encouragement, in our community wherever possible.

The future depends on it.