This article has been updated to edit a spelling error.
CORNWALL, Ontario – Students of St. Lawrence Secondary School (SLSS) received words of encouragement from local author and motivational speaker, Melanie Willard, on Wednesday, April 10.
Willard’s discussion was part of the annual youth symposium, hosted by Cornwall Police Services, in partnership with local school boards and the Eastern Ontario Training Board (EOTB).
“Every year, Cornwall Police host the youth symposium where we hire a motivational speaker to attend all (local) high schools to give motivational speeches in relation to resilience and how to bounce back. This year is no different, and we have Melanie Willard with us today,” said Cst. Dan Cloutier.
The symposium kicked off on April 8 with a workshop geared to local professionals who interact with youth on a regular basis. The workshop included presentations from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), the Cornwall Community Hospital (CCH), and Cornwall Police Service (CPS), with topics spanning cannabis, vaping and youth mental health.
According to Cst. Cloutier, students of CCVS, SLSS, École secondaire publique L’Héritage and École secondaire catholique La Citadelle would be taking part in the symposium this year, but unfortunately St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School and Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School students would not be due to transportation cancellation and freezing rain.
“I think it’s our duty that the public, especially our youth, have a chance to grow in safety and security, and have a better outlook on life,” said Cst. Cloutier. “I think it’s important that students always learn from their own mistakes because sometimes when you make a mistake it is hard to bounce back from (it). So in this case here, they get to learn from (Willard’s examples of) mistakes, and she’s going to give them coping skills on how to bounce back.”
Willard, of Alexandria, encouraged students to be resilient and break the stigma and silence attached to suffering. She has overcome many life threatening battles, including cancer, anorexia, domestic violence and addictions, generating novels about her ability to overcome personal challenges. Willard greeted her audience with a Rocky inspired tribute.
“I know you are a sensitive generation,” Willard said to students. “I want you to use that and have a powerful force in the world and to not let it play against you.”
Willard discussed coping skills and productive thinking pertaining to topics like bullying, body image and comparison in the digital landscape.
“Greatness is about how you care for the person beside you,” she said, implying it doesn’t matter how many social media followers you may have.