Since 2001, junior school students have participated in a formal student leadership group, called QUEST Council. Now in its 20th year, Calgary Academy’s QUEST Council prepares students for today and the future with the skills they need to succeed after graduating. Leadership is a lifelong skill that involves learning how to communicate effectively, listen to others and accepting others despite a difference of opinion.
Erin Ellis, then principal and now Director of Learning Supports at Calgary Academy started the QUEST Council in 2001. Erin got the idea through a teaching practicum that she had and wanted teachers to look at initiatives to create leadership within peer groups. The goal was to strengthen leadership by involving more students in different activities and providing them with the opportunity to lead those activities.
At the beginning of the year, teachers talk about QUEST in their classrooms and if a student wants to run as a representative for QUEST Council, they make a speech stating why they would be a good fit for the role. Two class representatives are elected for the lower and upper elementary grades.
“The idea is for students to be leaders in their classrooms, taking their classmates’ ideas for spirit days and team building activities to the QUEST Council and then implementing the ideas in the school,” said Nicole Mitchell, Elementary Teacher.
The representatives and two teachers meet as a QUEST Council once a week during lunch hour to brainstorm ideas and make plans for upcoming events and holidays. The Council is divided into four houses, Windsor (yellow), Lancaster (purple), Berkley (black), and Dunvegan (orange). Classes are split up among houses, meaning that each castle has students from Grades K-6, which allows students to get to know students in other grades and build new friendships.
“QUEST promotes positive school culture and community by engaging students in upcoming events and encouraging them to be leaders in their communities. Students show a lot of enthusiasm which contributes to a positive class environment,” said Jessica Taylor, Elementary Teacher.
Students who are involved in QUEST Council develop leadership skills including the ability to listen to other’s ideas and make decisions, public speaking skills and develop confidence in themselves as young community leaders. There are so many benefits for students who get involved in their communities at an early age.
QUEST’s kickoff looked different this year, as the school had to creatively gather students together virtually and build connections even while separated in their own classrooms. The event included introductions, a land acknowledgement, and a fun activity for each classroom to participate in.
QUEST Council is connected to the REACH principles which are foundational to CA. QUEST representatives must always show respect for their peers and their ideas. Enthusiasm and altruism are present in many activities as QUEST organizes school-wide events like food drives, creating cards for veterans around Remembrance Day, or collecting food for a rescue foundation. Prior to COVID-19, QUEST would visit senior’s homes and volunteer at the Mustard Seed.
“QUEST improves the overall school energy and spirit, resulting in students being proud to be at CA,” said Nicole Mitchell, Elementary Teacher.
The next event is a PJ and hot chocolate day on Friday, Nov. 19.