Blog | Outside Looking In


70 Youth set new standard of Performance in 9th Annual OLI Shows
September 6th, 2016

closingclosing4Hundreds of youth from five communities participated in OLI workshops during the 2015/16 program Launches, learning a wide variety of dance moves from professional dancers and choreographers. During initial workshops, youth also became familiar with the standards of performance they needed to demonstrate in order to remain in the program. Criteria falls into four key areas: Attendance, Academics, Behaviour, and Choreography (the ABCs), and reasonable yet challenging standards are determined by their teachers and community volunteers, along with OLI staff, and set out in their community’s custom tailored Program Policy.

Over the course of the program, principals, teachers, volunteers and OLI program staff tracked the progress and attendance of each individual who decided to take on the personal challenge of OLI and was vying to meet the program criteria in order to earn a place on stage. By April, each community had determined the core group of youth who would represent their community on stage at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

This year, a record number of 70 youth reached the goal of travelling to Toronto to perform in the 9th Annual OLI Event. They “wowed” a sold out audience of students at the annual matinee and brought the audience at the evening performance to their feet – a testament to the way OLI youth continue to inspire and amaze onlookers with their raw energy and joy of performance.

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Eleven Future Leaders Shine on Stage and Off
September 2nd, 2016

Future Leaders are agents of positive change

Future Leaders are agents of positive change

Eleven youth/mentor pairs completed the 2016 Future Leaders program, making this the
largest group in the program’s 5 year history. The Future Leaders program inspires
returning high school youth and recent high school graduates to take on the challenge of an enriched OLI experience. Challenging expectations in this additional credit course and mentorship program, motivate Future Leaders to focus on personal growth, leadership, goal setting, and mastery of challenging levels of dance performance. Through shared reflection and weekly communication, youth and mentors identify goals and dreams for the future. They explore the required steps for pursuing postsecondary education, employment training, and other opportunities. Youth and their
dedicated mentors build supportive, inspiring relationships that are mutually rewarding. The mentors and mentees met and spent the day together at the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation camp, engaging in a series of challenges and activities, designed to further build trust and resilience. This year’s Future Leaders were presented with the added challenge of choreographing their own sets of eight counts for the closing number and teaching the other Future Leaders the steps and moves. Charlene Smith, one of OLI’s first choreographers, helped the Future Leaders put their choreography together into a dynamic, polished number. The Future Leaders dance was a definite highlight in the show where the Future Leaders proudly showcased their own choreography and the piece that they had worked collaboratively to create. In addition to their own dance number, the Future Leaders choreographed and taught counts in the closing number for each group of community dancers. On stage and through their words in the Future Leader documentary, this group of eleven OLI Future Leaders truly personified the strength, determination, critical thinking and teamwork skills that will carry them forward to roles of responsibility in their schools, community, postsecondary settings, or wherever their paths might take them.

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August 3rd, 2016

May 25, 2016 OLI survey of 68 youth


  1. Since being in OLI, how has it affected your performance at school?
Response Count
Grades have improved 56 82.4%  
Attendance has improved 50 73.5%  
More focused on school work 58 85.3%  
More aware of own performance in school 42 61.8%  
Improved effort to arrive on time 47 69.1%  
Feeling motivated and energized overall 44 64.7%  
More willing to ask for help or talk to others 42 61.8%  
More pride in your school work 46 67.6%  
  Total: 68


  1. Since being in OLI, how has it impacted the relationships in your life?
Response Count
Felt supported by your teachers 39 57.4%  
Felt supported by your community 44 64.7%  
Improved relationships with your family 38 55.9%  
Made new friends 66 97.1%  
Get along better with your peers/classmates 54 79.4%  
Feeling like you are part of a group 58 85.3%  
Reconnected with old friends 37 54.4%  
More confident talking to people 55 80.9%  
  Total: 68


  1. Since being in OLI, how has it impacted you?

Half Move Edit Add Text    

Response Count
Work better in a team 47 69.1%  
Feel better about yourself 62 91.2%  
Physically stronger or more fit 57 83.8%  
More confident in your abilities 50 73.5%  
Decreased negative attitudes/behaviours 50 73.5%  
Increased perseverance 30 44.1%  
Increased level of commitment 44 64.7%  
Found out something new about yourself 53 77.9%  
Developed leadership skills 40 58.8%  
Changed your eating and drinking habits 46 67.6%  
  Total: 68



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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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