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My experience at LEAD 2016

Hey Duke of Ed participants,

As many of you now know, my name is Alisha and I came to LEAD to assist Andrew in documenting your experiences – to take pictures and video and notes so that I could come home and write about your epic adventures – so that Andrew and I could craft an awesome video that would showcase all the fun times you kids had. I was a last minute addition to help Andrew and Melissa and we wanted some great images for brochures and posters and website banners. You know, marketing stuff.

We came back with all of that great content to help the program out – I promise you.

But personally, I came back with so much more. I came back, like many of you, completely changed for the better. You have all been so kind and accepting toward a last minute addition who has been working for the Duke as an intern for only 2 months. Staff and participants alike – you shared your stories with me. I saw each one of you grow through the lens of my camera, and I am so grateful you shared your whole selves with me. You showed me what the Duke means to you by sharing it with me.

If the Duke is about embracing your best self then most certainly the theme of LEAD 2016 was embracing each other.

So in that spirit, I am embracing my heart as that of a poet, and sharing with you a poem I wrote at camp, directly from my soul:

My experience at LEAD transcends words and translates only through emotions.
Overwhelming: Gratitude, Kindness, Acceptance.
There is nothing that can express these moments.
You feel them – bathe in them – soak them into your soul so you can carry them with you when your heart needs a long-distance hug.
Bask in it. Like a warm ray on a summers day. Let it sink in and let it add to your weight so that when anger and hurt and resentment weigh in

You will always be carrying with you that light.

I’ve been embraced by my peers of humankind. Staff and participants have enveloped me in a hug that moves through moments, defying time and space.
I feel grace. I feel love. I feel family. I feel home. My soul has been fed. My spirit uplifted. I am gloriously recovered from the upheaval of every day realities.
I am moved - beyond recognition because I am renewed - remade as tiny pieces o

each. one. of. you.

I am healed – you have soothed my aching wounds.
I am strong – you stood with me as myself.
I am one –we’ve now experienced a joined connection.
I am free – from the shackles that were threatening my hope.
I am accepted – I am real.
This is the best way I can describe how I feel.

I’ve been interning at the Duke since the beginning of the summer, and one of my main contributions to the program has been writing articles for our community page.

The truth is I’ve been afraid to put my whole heart into articles. I’ve been desperately afraid that if I showed my full true self in my writing as the Duke of Ed, that I would fail. I write very well technically but you all made me realize that what I’ve been missing is heart.

What I learned the most from LEAD 2016 is that to be a true leader you’ve gotta have heart. You have to be open, so that others will be open to you. An adventurous journey teaches you to love the environment and to trust your group. Community Services teaches you to love your neighbour and instills self-worth. Skills teaches you to love and experience all that the intelligence of human kind has to offer. And Physical Activities teach us to love ourselves. It reminds us to have fun.

We’ve all made such powerful connections, and together experienced the power of kindness, trust, empathy and love. I myself experienced the most amazing energy lift throughout our last night’s dance. I have no doubt in my mind that each and every single one of you will make a difference in this world. Julie said it best at the banquette: You instilled hope in me for the future. That at our core, we all want to love and to share experiences. That is what the Duke is about, and that is why you will all be so effective. You are all so strong, and so capable, and you taught me to accept myself. Who knew that at 26 (okay…I’m nearly 27) I’d still felt such a tremendous amount of shame in myself and my abilities? True leaders bring out the best in a person and you all sure brought out the best in me. I want to thank you for that.

I have been finding the transition back to reality after such a translucent event hard. The worst part about life-changing events is that they don’t last forever. They can’t. I’ve realized that the older I get, more and more amazing people will come into and go out of your life as quickly as they came. Daily life and realities always kick in. It’s really really hard to say goodbye to a person you connected so strongly with because they live across the country. You feel like the hug will never be long enough but the steward is giving you dirty looks and you know it’s time to let go.

But we are lucky enough to live in an age where we can communicate globally thanks to the internet. We don’t have to send letters through carrier pigeons. You all have already been amazing sharing photos and videos and posts on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

I feel like we have built and will continue to build an amazing community through the Duke of Ed and I want to keep this momentum alive. So, inspired by LEAD 2016, I hope you’ll have me to lead you all as a writer in building and shaping this online community as our own.

I want this to be a safe and positive space where we can come to share our stories, our experiences and our hearts. A place for honesty and advice. A place where we can continue to connect through the power of words. Think of it as Cedarwood online! A beautiful place you can retreat to when life becomes overwhelming.

I will continue to write articles to get conversations started – but I am hoping you guys will like to contribute to the conversation as well. Maybe even write some articles of your own! The Duke is all about changing the world by changing our own lives, and the ones around us. I think it is time we carried this conversation and amazing way of thinking online! It’s only naturally given how many amazing ideas are spread throughout the provinces and territories.

Never doubt that together we can make a difference. Social media and online communities are now powerful tools to aid in our community’s self-growth. I hope you all will assist me as I move forth to continue to use my gift of words to contribute to spreading love in the world.

Thank you for such an amazing LEAD experience. I will never, ever forget it, and I’ll make sure you won’t either!

With love,



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