It didn’t take Jeang Yen Hang long to decide that she wanted to be a member of George Brown College’s
Student Leadership Academy (SLA). She learned about the group at orientation where she chatted with SLA members and learned about volunteer and networking opportunities.
“I really wanted to be one of them,” she said.
“I’m so passionate about networking, volunteering, meeting people and learning skills and sharing my value.”
SLA members volunteer for events both on and off-campus, including at orientation sessions, service fairs, academic workshops, local festivals and more. Participating in these events gives students the chance to meet and network with people from across the college and the city.
Student Life Specialist Norman Javier, who created the SLA program in 2008, said the group provides opportunities for students to develop people skills, including teamwork, work ethic, initiative and communication.
“Basically all of it is indirect learning,” Javier said. “You see students grow within a month to one semester and it’s great to hear their stories in the end.”
SLA members must develop and demonstrate initiative and work ethic in their volunteer positions. Javier said it’s important that members are “trustworthy and reliable because they represent the college and the SLA program.”
Maintaining a positive attitude and honing networking skills are also important while volunteering, Javier said, “because you never know who you might meet.”
Expectations are high for SLA members and Javier volunteers alongside them, demonstrating the behaviour he demands from volunteers.
“I feel that it is my responsibility to model what it means to give that 100 per cent,” Javier said, noting SLA members may get noticed by someone looking to hire a student.
Hang said she landed four on-campus jobs through the SLA, including working at a Welcome Desk, at Housing Services, with the Student Association and helping out with an on-campus anti-smoking initiative.
The annual SLA retreat
Every year select SLA members are invited to attend the group’s annual three-day retreat at no cost. Students are split into teams and tackle physical obstacles together, including high and low-ropes courses. Some students are invited back as a captain for a second year, to help to lead activities.
“If I see someone isn’t a leader yet but has been willing and is trying, I give them that platform to be able to take that role,” Javier said of the retreat selection process. “The second they’re titled as a leader you’d be surprised to see how much they change in a matter of three days.”
Hang, an international student who in 2015 was in her final year of the
Hospitality Operations Management degree program, attended the retreat twice—first as a student member and the second time as a captain.
“The retreat gave me good opportunities to talk in front of people, improving my public speaking skills,” she said. “I improved my leadership and networking skills because you’re meeting people from other campuses and from a lot of different backgrounds.”
Hang said the retreat experiences also helped her hone her communication skills—specifically her listening skills. She also said the positive and inclusive tone of the group had a profound effect on her.
Javier said approximately 2,500 students have been a part of the SLA program over the past eight years.
“I’ve volunteered my whole life. This is my city. I was born and raised here and it’s done a lot for me. I just want to give back,” Javier said. “My goal is to stay positive and be surrounded by positive influences and when you volunteer everyone is just at that level.”