Blog | Outside Looking In


Future Leaders Reach Above and Beyond
September 14th, 2015

Brody Allen and Austin Pangowish, 2015 Future Leaders

Brody Allen and Austin Pangowish, 2015 Future Leaders

OLI Future Leaders is an enrichment program for returning OLI youth in grade 10 or higher who want to challenge themselves to reach above and beyond the requirements and criteria of the regular OLI experience to explore the art of Leadership. Youth are guided in the analysis and development of leadership skills through communication, reflection, and experiential learning. In addition, youth examine their interests and goals and identify the steps needed to actively pursue their dreams.

The Future Leaders program is a mentorship program. Youth who are accepted into the Future Leaders program are paired with a mentor who supports the youth throughout the year through weekly emails and/or phone calls.

The Future Leaders program is also a credit course. With the input of principals, a credit course focused on leadership, mentorship, and/or career design is selected and a course of action is prepared for prospective Future Leaders. Curriculum expectations are addressed through weekly writing and reflection tasks, in addition to selected readings and application of skills.

A big part of the Future Leaders program happens at camp. The FL camp experience focuses on leadership and life skills and provides experiences that allow youth to reach out of their comfort zone to pursue physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual fitness and well being. At camp, Future Leaders participate in intense daily rehearsals, where they learn challenging choreography. Examples of other activities youth may participate in during the leadership camp are: team building exercises; career building and resume writing; visits to local Aboriginal centres/services /events; visits to colleges or universities; camp activities focused on developing leadership skills; and practice and performance at special events.

In addition to their part in the community performances, Future Leaders also perform in a special FL dance that is showcased at OLI’s Annual Performance.

The 2015 show featured Austin Pangowish from Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve and Brody Allen from Lac La Croix First Nation. These two young men had the whole stage – the biggest stage in Canada – to themselves as they entertained the audience in an energetic rendition of War by Edwin Starr. For the first time in OLI’s eight-year history, mentors Elysia Townsend and Tracee Smith, standing in for Tyler Ford, took to the stage and performed choreographed dance moves with their youth mentees.

Austin and Brody are currently entering their final year of high school in their respective communities. We sincerely hope to see them take on the challenge of the Future Leaders program again this year. There is a lot of interest in the 2016 program with a record number of youth being eligible to participate. Applications are due October 28, 2015; youth and mentor pairs will be announced in November. If you are interested in becoming an OLI Future Leaders mentor, please contact Maureen at for more information.

Austin, Mentor Elysia Townsend, and Brody greet guests at OLI Event 2015

Austin, Mentor Elysia Townsend, and Brody greet guests at OLI Event 2015

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Two milestones for 2015 high school graduates
August 14th, 2015


Audience members who attend OLI’s Annual Performance every year often remark that one thing they always look forward to is that time in the show when the high school graduates from the group are introduced, recognized, and applauded. OLI provides a forum to celebrate that all-important milestone, the completion of a high school education. Every OLI high school graduate has a unique story to celebrate. What better way to recognize personal victories than on a stage at OLI’s annual Event and Performance surrounded by peers, mentors, teachers, family, friends, and an audience of interested supporters!

A little research into Indigenous graduation rates in Canada will reveal a mixed bag of statistics and qualitative data:

  • Secondary school data (2004-2009) identifies the rate of First Nation graduation at approximately 36% compared to the Canadian graduation rate of 72%. Conversely, some First Nations exceed those rates with Membertou First Nation in Nova Scotia achieving 100% graduation rates in the last few years.
  • 61% of First Nation young adults (20-24) have not completed high school, compared with 13% of non-Aboriginal people in Canada. ( “A portrait of First Nations and Education. October 2012)
  • Indigenous youth are the fastest growing demographic in Canada, but high school graduation rates are half the rate for non-Indigenous Canadians. (Sonia Prevost-Derbecker, Vice President of Education, Indspire,

No matter the source and the statistics, educators, researchers, employers, and watchers of trends all agree that for all young adults in all circumstances, earning a high school diploma boosts the capacity to find meaningful employment and is a prerequisite for pursuing goals in areas of personal interest in years to come. High school graduates have myriad opportunities available to them.

OLI works with each community individually to set criteria for participation in the program. OLI youth must demonstrate high levels of school attendance and academic achievement. It is Outside Looking In‘s belief that engaged learners who attend school regularly will graduate from high school.

Youth exiting the OLI program upon graduation know that the skills and attitudes they have developed through their participation in OLI will prepare them for the challenges they will encounter in the next stage of their postsecondary journey, whether that be in the field of higher education, skills training, or pursuit of satisfying personal experiences.

In May 2015, seven prospective graduates were highlighted on stage, providing OLI with two new milestones. Alexandria Shawongonabe, Brigitte Neganigwane, Cody Lewis, Richard Lewis, and Tye Jourdain, graduating from Wasse-Abin High School in Wikwemikong and Chad Geyshick and Pernell Ottertail Jr. from Zhingwaako Zaaga’Igan School in Lac La Croix made up the largest group of graduates in OLI’s eight-year history. Not only that, this skilled and committed group took on the challenge of performing the Opening Number in the show, a dance that has, in previous years, been choreographed for professional dancers to open the show with a blast of energy. The audience loved the vigour and skill of the 2015 graduating dancers. The grads took command of the stage at the opening cue, leaving no doubt about their talent and their ability to capture the crowd through their exuberant performance.

Youth dancers are already talking about next year’s 2016 show and saying that that they are looking forward to the “grad dance”. It could just be that another OLI tradition is in the works.

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OLI gives a SHOUT OUT to the hard workers behind the scenes
December 8th, 2014

Thank you to all of the OLI Champions

Thank you to all of the OLI Champions

Did you know that it often take months and even years of preparation to bring OLI to a community?

Did you know that in each participating community there is at least one individual who has worked doggedly or is currently working at great lengths to make OLI a reality for the youth?

Usually the process begins with individuals who come to the show and are so inspired by the OLI youth that they see on stage and meet through the videos that they just cannot get the image of these youth and the powerful emotions that they felt in the theatre out of their mind. They leave the theatre stirred with feelings and with the knowledge that they have just experienced something transformative. They can’t stop thinking about a certain community they know; they can’t stop envisioning the youth of this community on that stage. An idea begins to emerge. They imagine presenting this idea to community leaders. It is a complex idea and not easy to put into words, for how do you describe OLI? OLI involves seizing an opportunity that is part journey, part forum for artistic self-expression, part venue for cultural exchange, part education and skill development, and part building strong long-lasting relationships. OLI means belonging to a group – a group of youth so strong and so empowered that they can bring an entire theatre of spectators to tears.

This idea of introducing OLI to a new community takes root in the psyche. It persists. It calls for conversations and rallies for support. In many cases these “idea people” face barriers, challenges, and unfavorable circumstances. They get put off, told to wait until the time is right. Still they continue to spread the word, to seek support, to find the people who will invest in Indigenous youth. And then one day, they make a call to the OLI office. “I think we are ready. What do we do now?”

OLI gives a shout out to these individuals. You will not see these people on stage. You probably will never hear their names. You might see their faces in the audience but you won’t recognize them. OLI wants you to know they are out there. They are integral. They are appreciated. They are the champions of OLI and we sincerely thank them for their work in blazing the trail for the journey that follows.


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Garden Hill Welcomes OLI
November 14th, 2014

On Monday October 27, OLI made its first trip to Garden Hill First Nation in northern Manitoba to launch this year’s OLI program.


All of the students from grade 7 to 12 met in the gym Tuesday morning to learn the basics of Outside Looking In. At 1 pm all the 7/8s were invited to the gym to begin learning choreography under the direction of OLI Choreographer Queenie Seguban.


Later that afternoon, the Seniors took to the gym floor for their first rehearsal, and later that evening, more than twenty youth came out for their second rehearsal of the day.


By Thursday, both Senior and Middle Years students were looking awesome! Over one hundred youth impressed us with their ability to stay focused and to quickly pick up choreography. The youth will be working hard over the next month to attend school every day, to do their school work, and to rehearse on their own and with friends.


Queenie and I experienced warm hospitality in Garden Hill. We met Ian from the Northern Store who has been a great champion for OLI. We were really impressed to see the huge OLI fundraising thermometer on display outside the store. We finally met Susan Wood and Cathy Monias with whom OLI has been planning since last year and over the summer. Principal Ernie McDougall and the teachers were accommodating and enthusiastic, jumping in in many ways to support the youth during the beginning stage of this new endeavor – including signing up as Volunteers and dancing with the students.


Queenie and I can hardly wait for our next trip to Garden Hill on December 1st.

Queenie enjoying boat taxi ride


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STP Youth Take it to the Next Level
October 27th, 2014

OLI visited STP for Trip #2 from Monday October 20th until Thursday October 24th. When we arrived, high school students and staff were engaged in preparing and cooking moose meat meals around group fires. That evening we were in the Middle Years gym for the first rehearsal. Nino rehearsed the two original numbers – Maroon 5 and Usher with the high school youth. At rehearsals over the next two days, students learned choreography in two very different styles for two new songs. OLI introduced the attendance and academic policy that was set by the teachers. OLI walked students through a “mock assessment” of ten volunteers so that everyone would understand both the procedure and the performance rating scale. The first assessment of choreography will take place during the next trip on November 24th. Youth are strongly encouraged to rehearse daily in order to feel prepared and confident for their first small group performances and assessments.


At the Middle Years rehearsals, grade 7 and 8s learned new choreography in addition to running through their first song. With only engaged dancers on the participant list, there are currently 88 Middle Years youth taking an active part in OLI. These students are also using posted teaching videos to learn and refine their moves in preparation for their first assessment next trip.

Chris and STP youth preparing moose snacks

Chris and STP youth preparing moose snacks

High School Youth rehearsing

High School Youth rehearsing

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