Claire's Blog

CAIS Leadership Conference 2016


From September 22-26 I embarked on a journey along side ten other grade eights from my school across Canada to learn how to be a better leader. This conference was based at Camp Onondaga which is about three and a half hours north of Toronto. In this post, I’ll give a day to day look on what I experienced at this camp.

Day One:

We arrived in Toronto and spent the night there. After our flight we went straight downtown to The Eaton Centre to have dinner and just chill out after a long day of travel. We went to sleep early, excited to arrive at camp the next day.

Day Two:

We started our journey in our minivans to the conference. We stopped in a few small towns for food, and finally arrived at the camp. We handed our devices to our teachers and started to get to know the people we would be spending the whole weekend with. By the end of that first night, I knew I had made friendships that I would love to last forever. We had one easy workshop that night called ‘The Leadership Disco’. It was to get us to understand that everyone can be a leader, when we were learning the disco steps you couldn’t always see the instructor so you had to watch your peers, and they had to be a leader to you with out even realizing it. That was our first step into our weekend of leadership.

Day Three:

We had two workshops on the morning our third day of this trip. The workshops were lead by a group of people from ‘Friendship in Action’ who taught us about the different types of leaders and how to run meetings with certain groups of people. After that we had three hours of camp activities. I did arts & crafts, ball hockey, and the high ropes course. We then went in for dinner. After dinner we had a presenter come in who talked about Aboriginal Education. We did exercises in which we had a problem that had to do with Aboriginal Education and we had to think of a solution. After our final workshop of the day we had a ‘Wacky Talent Show’ that everyone had to take part in. There were many different categories such as most pushups, best whistle, weirdest contortion, who can say the alphabet backwards the fastest, it was a very fun and entertaining night.

Day Four:

Day four of the trip was full of leadership. We had four different workshops; bullying, social media, sexual and gender diversity, and student mental health. During the bullying workshop we learned how to take a stand if we see someone being bullied, and how to shut down that issue. In the social media workshop we learned about our digital footprint, and how to use technology to promote good leadership. We talked about our values and how we need to always remember that when on social media. The sexual and gender diversity workshop was very interesting. We learned new vocabulary, read children’s books about this topic, and a lot more. I took a lot away from this workshop. Our last workshop was student mental health. We learned how to cope with someone who might not have strong mental health, and the correct use of words to use when comforting someone. This day was about learning more about the main issues that youth in Canada are facing. After these workshops we had another two hours of camp activities. I went on a zip line that went from the top of a mountain and finished in the lake, and also went canoeing. We closed the evening with  a camp fire.

Day Five:

The dreaded day came when we had to say goodbye to all the new friends we had made across the country. We exchanged numbers, and all departed home. When we arrived home in Victoria it felt strange saying goodbye to the group of thirteen that I had spent the past five days with. We were our own little family at that point.

This trip was the best five days of my life. I learned so much about how to help my peers, and how to be a better leader. I met 105 new people from across Canada. The students that I travelled with from my school weren’t really in my circle of friends, but I’m more than glad that those were the circumstances because now I know each and everyone of these eleven people as a friend, and not just as that kid who’s in my English class. I feel like this camp changed me as a person. I wish it never ended.

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Sunset on the lake
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One of the leadership activities
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Exploring downtown Toronto
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A surf shop in one of the small towns we stopped at

It’s Been a Pleasure Doing Business With You

So. It’s over. Now what?

I am so lucky that I got to take part in the ultimate Tragically Hip experience. Together, my family went to 6 concerts. Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Hamilton, Ottawa and Kingston. The ones I went to were magical. I’ve been to other bands concerts before, but it’s never even close to being as enticing and eye opening as a Tragically Hip show.

Best moments of the Man Machine Poem tour:

  1. Being front row at the Edmonton show, just my dad and I. That was a night I will never forget.
  2. Sitting around the campfire with our relatives in Thornbury, live streaming the Calgary show
  3. Watching the Hamilton show with my cousin, we were probably the youngest kids there, and certainly the best dancers
  4. Singing ‘Music at Work’ with all my cousins and siblings while my uncle played the guitar by the fire
  5. Sitting in the living room with my aunt, watching the final show in Kingston.

August 20th. The end. My parents were there in Kingston while we live streamed it. I don’t even know how to describe that show. As the second encore rolled around they played ‘Scared’. I lost it. That was probably the most emotional song of the night for me. It’s hard to believe that song was written in 1995, cuz it’s bang on how Gord’s probably feeling, how I’m feeling and how the whole country is feeling over twenty years later. We are scared. Scared of what’s going to happen to Gord. Scared of what life is going to be like without any new Hip songs. The last line of that song ensured that there wasn’t a dry eye across the nation. “I gotta go, but it’s been a pleasure doing business with you”. As Gord sang that, my aunt and I made eye contact and shook our heads, wiping tears from our eyes.

As my dad has said, this tour was really Gord Downie’s own marathon of hope. He did the impossible while there’s still time. He blew the minds and touched the hearts of millions. I am so lucky that I was able to witness Canadian history being made.  Gord Downie is a hero. Well, at least he’s mine. Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 1.09.39 PM.png

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My First Hip Concert

I didn’t know how to start this post. My dad always said he couldn’t explain Tragically Hip concerts, and I never understood why until last night. There’s no way to explain Hip concerts. It’s a feeling, a sensation not a concert. At concerts you dance, sing, laugh, at Tragically Hip concerts you connect. Whether it’s with the band itself or the people sitting beside you.

Everyone gathered was there because they wanted to celebrate this amazing band. They all have the same musical interest, and everyone has everything to talk about.

Last night my dad and I started playing a game where we guess which songs were going to be played next. The man beside my dad joined in and we all had a great time.

Before the concert I was sitting in our seats while my dad went to go get some drinks and I had a conversation with a few people behind me about our experience with the Hip and how much we are going to miss Gord. They loved that a thirteen year old was at the concert because the band’s main audience are adults, and they also loved my custom T-shirt! (Thanks Dad!) The people there were all gathered for the same reason, to celebrate this amazing bands’ accomplishments and have a great time- and I certainly did.

And for the record,  I’ve never seen so many Gord Downie, T-shirts in one place.

I also connected with the band, and of course Gord. It wasn’t directly, but after the concert it felt like he and I had a three hour conversation. He somehow has the ability to make you feel like you are just chatting away with him just by his use of facial expressions and dance moves.

I was pretty upset after the concert. I want to go to a million more! I want to hear newly written songs live! Well, I can’t. But for now I am very grateful to be attending two more concerts, in Edmonton and Hamilton.


My Addiction To Playing Guitar

I have been playing guitar for almost a year. I have fallen in love with it. There’s something about playing the guitar that’s so much different from playing the violin, or any other instrument. Once you know a few basic chords you can pretty much search up any song and master it with a simple strumming pattern in a matter of minutes. But learning guitar wasn’t easy. It took me a while to get to the stage of being able to play tons of music.

I picked up my little brother’s mini toy guitar one day thinking, ‘How hard could this be?’. Little did I know how many chords there are. I don’t think anyone could learn all of them in their life time. It took hours and hours of practicing, memorizing, and dedicating so much time to this instrument. I made flashcards to test my memory of how to place my fingers to correctly make a chord. It was so frustrating when I kept getting them wrong. But after weeks and months of practicing and reviewing constantly, I mastered the most common 20 or so chords.

After learning the basic chords, you can pretty much play anything. I played in a pub in Australia after only four months of playing guitar. I played without challenging myself for a few months, but after a while I wanted to learn more. I didn’t want to continue to play the same chords on and on forever. It was boring. So, I started finger picking, and playing challenging songs.

Ask anyone in my family. I play guitar A LOT. This and soccer are pretty much all I do. When I’m stressed, I’ll just sit in my room and play guitar for an hour or so and I’ll immediately feel relieved. “Lean your body forward slightly to support the guitar against your chest, for the poetry of the music should resound in your heart.”

(I would put videos in this post of me playing but it isn’t working so if you would like to hear me play email my parents or me and I’ll send some videos)

Provincials 2016

This year my club did not win playoffs, so we wouldn’t be going to provincials. But to my surprise the team that did win, ‘Saanich Fusion’ were down two players and asked my friend and I to join them to play in provincials. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait.

After months of training in the hot summer heat, we finally departed for Penticton, where provincials would be held. The way provincials works is that there are eight teams in each age division, and you are in two groups of four.You play against every team in your group. Let’s say you come third in your group, you will play the team that came third in the other group for fifth place. You play one game a day.

Our first game was against Chilliwack, the winners of Coastal Cup (a tournament where all the winners of playoffs  from different leagues from Vancouver Island and Vancouver get together and compete just for fun to prepare for provincials. I was not a part of Saanich Fusion yet so I did not go to Coastal Cup). This team was good, but so were we. In our game, we had more possession than them, and a million shots on them. They only had four shots, however all four of their shots went in when only one of ours went in. This team ended up winning provincials.

On the second day we played Nelson. We played amazing this game, and ended up winning 4-0, and I assisted every goal. The third day was our last game just playing against teams in our group. We played Kelowna, a strong team that had a very strong defence line, but not strong enough to stop us from beating them  2-1. We finished strong in second place in our group, so we would be playing for third against the team that came second in the other group. This team happened to be the team that creamed Saanich in the semi finals of Coastal Cup 4-1. We knew it would be a tough game. After the first half went by with no goals for either team, we went back on the field confident we could get the ball into the net. Well, I scored the first goal and after that we kept firing balls into the net. The final score was 3-0 and everyone was very happy. We were the third best team in British Columbia!

This trip was one of the best experiences of my life. I made 15 new friends, and a few of them are now some of my closest friends. I really bonded with these girls, wether we were going on giant bikes, swimming in the lake, wrestling in the pool, or watching the Euro’s- I had so much fun. I’m really sad that I won’t be playing with these girls anymore, but I will never forget this. I can’t wait to play against Saanich Fusion next year!







Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad


Why my parents are the best:

  1. They drive me places (sports, friends houses, etc.)
  2. They make me good food
  3. They spend a lot of time working for me
  4. They buy me a lot of things I probably don’t entirely need
  5. They enrolled me in a good school
  6. They pay for all my soccer tournaments, uniform kits, hotels, etc.
  7. They are forgiving
  8. They help me if I’m in a bad situation
  9. They keep us healthy
  10. They love me

Mom and Dad; you guys are the best parents someone could ask for and I’m proud to call you mine. Thank you for everything you do for me, I hope you have a wonderful anniversary- you deserve it:)Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Math Mindset

I’m not amazing at math. I maintained a B average throughout this year, and pretty much bombed the final exam. You may be wondering why I am making all of these facts about my math public? Well it’s because this year I learned that math is more than just adding and subtracting numbers, and calculating percents. Math is about mindset and confidence, and I probably would have done so much better this year if I didn’t focus so much on the math problems, but also on how I approach those problems. Math is a step-by-step process and if you can’t pass step one without freaking out, you will never make it to the last step.

I always started reviewing for math tests and exams at least two weeks before, and until the test, every night I would do some questions in areas I wasn’t confident in. But as soon as I sat down in the exam room for my final exam and the test was placed on my desk, it felt like everything I had learned this past year had was lost. I should have taken a few deep breathes, not worry about getting a perfect score. All I could think was “Get an A, get an A”. I sped through the test, and I actually felt pretty good about it when I walked out of the exam room. But a week later, I received my exam and was nothing but disappointed. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was more than a B student in math, but I obviously wouldn’t achieve an A on my final report card if I couldn’t get a good score on my exam. I would be lucky to get a B.

That final exam wasn’t the only occasion that I had freaked myself out and panicked during a math test, it happens almost every time. I am not confident in math. It is the one thing at school that I am afraid of. Numbers are little monsters that won’t function in my head. I need to find a way to approach number problems with the confidence to solve them. My parents, friends and math teachers have taught me that I’m not bad at math. I understand all the concepts, I show that I can solve problems during class time. But as soon as it’s a test and worth part of our grade, I panic and freak out. Next year in math I am going to be confident. I don’t care if I get another B, I just want to be able to show my full potential on tests.


In my communication skills class, we had to write a mini ted talk. I decided to write mine about child marriage. I have really enjoyed this unit of this course, and I hope you enjoy my ted talk.

Imagine this: You are a twelve year old girl. You should be learning about what’s happening around the world, experiencing new languages, instead, you are forced to marry a forty year old man and have his children. You have no say in this decision. Your parents need you to marry a wealthy man and the creepy old guy that’s old enough to be your father is all there is. You are beaten, sexually abused and treated like dirt by this man. This is a reality for so many young girls just like me. Every year 15 million girls are married as children, denied their rights to health, education and robbed of a childhood. If we do nothing, by 2030 an estimated 16.5 million girls a year will be married as a child. In the time it has taken you to read this post so far, over 30 girls have been forced into a marriage.

Child: an immature or irresponsible human being. This is one of the definitions of the word child. Why are children being smacked in the face with the responsibilities of an adult? The average adult is married at twenty seven- double the age of what some girls are being married at in countries such as Niger, Yemen, and Malawi. Rawan is an eight year old living in Yemen. My sister is also eight years old- full of energy, just wanting to have fun. The only thing that’s significantly different between Rawan and my sister Cate, is that three years ago in Yemen, Rawan was forced to marry a forty year old man. Rawan died on her wedding night because she was sexually abused by her husband. An eight year old, abused by her husband. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like if Cate were to be in this situation. The thought of this makes me sick inside. Eight year olds are meant to dance around and play pretend games, not worry about marriage. Why is this happening in the world? Rawan was just a kid, just like Cate is. Rawan wanted to learn, make crafts, play sports. Instead she was killed. Riots followed this event. The public was not okay with this. Yet, still the government didn’t do enough to stop this from happening in the future.

If we lived in a country like Niger, 75 percent of the girls in this room would be married to a man decades older than us now, or in the next few years. A teen girl in Nigeria stated “If a girl is 15 and not married people will start complaining.” People will start complaining because a teenage girl doesn’t have to worry about marriage. Aaliyah is a fourteen year old living in Egypt. She was born into a very poor family, and her parents were illiterate. She never learned to read or right and had few marketable skills. There were no other options for her than to marry a 26 year old man. She stated in an interview with the charity ‘Girls Not Brides’: “My mother in law was very rough with me, she kept insulting me all the time. My husband started beating me for every mistake. The family kept me doing all household chores and serving the whole family, so I miscarried my first and second pregnancies. I never had the chance to get antenatal health care.” Aaliyah is not just worried about how this marriage has impacted her, but also how it has impacted her three children. She stated: “I did not know to get my first child a birth certificate, so he could not join school and lost his chance to get vaccinations. I insisted on getting birth certificates for the other 2 kids. But my oldest child will have a poor family because he is not educated.” This poor fourteen year old had to deal with being verbally and physically abused, and keep her children alive as her husband was little help. When she was in her late twenties, she decided to change her life. She joined the factory to work and earn some money to raise her kids in a better way. “For the first time, I feel like a human being and can face my own problems and tell my story to other; mainly to mothers to advise them not to marry girls early.” Aaliyah quoted. She started her life as an innocent child bride, and now she is without her abusive husband, provides resources to make changes for her children, and has found a voice inside her to speak up about this horrible thing called child marriage.

It’s insane how many girls a year are being forced to marry someone old enough to be their father. It needs to stop. Thankfully, there are over over twenty charities to help fight child marriage. Girls not Brides, CARE, Breakthrough, ICRW, World Vision, Girls UP, and Save the Children are just a few examples of some great organizations that fight to end this global issue. Without everyone in the world being aware of this issue, it is impossible to end it. In order to end this curse called child marriage, we have to empower girls in poor countries. We have to let them know they should have the ability to stand up to their husbands. We have to increase girls access to education, maximize AID dollars, support charities that end child marriage, transform these harmful cultural norms, and support the needs of child brides. This problem needs to be addressed and the least I can do is write about it.  I hope after hearing these stories about Rawan and Aaliyah’s experiences you will donate to a charity that helps this problem. Just imagine being married to a grown man as a teen or even a child; that’s the least you can do.                                                                  

Dear Gord Downie…

Dear Gord,

I’m not your typical teenage girl. Most girls will get excited when Justin Bieber, or Ariana Grande comes on the radio, but when my dad plays ‘Grace Too’, or ‘Now For Plan A’ and we all sing along, I know there is no other musician that will make me feel the same way. I have always been the odd ball about favourite singers, all my friends like rappers or pop stars. But I have been able to connect to your lyrics, your words make me think. It’s pure poetry. I can’t believe that that pretty soon, there will be no new lyrics for me to be inspired by. You have a passion, and you are pretty good at what you are passionate about. It is horrible that this stupid thing called terminal cancer has to stop you from continuing what you are amazing at.

You should see my dad when your songs come on in the car. He starts drumming the wheel, and dances like he should be on dancing with the stars. I never see him happier than when he is jamming out to your tunes. Once I came home from school in grade 3. I said to my dad, “Today we started learning about poetry”.  He jumped up, and darted to his book shelf, and grabbed your book ‘Coke Machine Glow’. As an eight year old, it didn’t make too much sense to me, but I still loved it, and I still love reading your poetry, or song lyrics to this day.

One of my favourite memories, is when my whole family was in the car and we were listening to ‘Man, Machine, Poem’. My sister started laughing when you start singing the word ‘monkey’ in the first few lines. We all knew most, if not all the lyrics. Your music brings my family together, especially on those great Friday nights after a stressful week. Your lyrics require me to get further explanation from my dad about what the real meaning is. I always thought he was a genius for always knowing the meanings of your songs. Your music made my dad my favourite teacher, I always loved when a song such as ‘Emperor Penguin’ came on and my dad taught me more about them. When I heard ‘Bobcaygeon’ for the first time I had no idea where it was, so my dad explained to me that it’s in Ontario, and that led to us watching the whole ‘Bobcaygen’ movie/documentary. Whenever I hear one of your songs, there is always a spectacular memory with my family that is linked with it, and it puts a huge smile on my face.

My parents told me the story of when my dad first met you at an interview, and you obviously hit it off. You are one of my favourite teachers, and a good friend. I feel like you understand me. The stories you have told through your music, or just through a conversation to my family members has impacted us all. Thank you for what you have done to my family.

I want my kids to grow up listening to your music. I want them to get as excited as I do when I hear a new song of yours for the first time. But, they won’t hear a new song with your beautiful voice, with your unbelievable words in a new poetic order and that destroys me inside. You are a teacher, a poet, an inspiration, motivational (especially before my soccer games), and most of all; the best musician of all times. I am devastated that horrible brain cancer has to take you over. Gord, you are too good a human being to go through all of this, and I have no doubt in my mind that you will remain a legend for ever, and ever- at least in my family you will.


Claire Pontefract (your second biggest fan, because my dad is number one) Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 10.05.44 PM.png

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