St. Margaret’s School Grade 12 student Miranda Schell is a self-described behind-the-scenes worker

Youth inspired: Empowering with enthusiasm

St. Margaret's school head girl leads with enthusiasm to provide positive experience for the younger girls

Miranda Schell is known to sing the night away, belting out Korean songs with her roommate in residence at St. Margaret’s School.

She can get goofy with the best of them at the Saanich school, but the Albertan takes her role as head girl seriously and uses her “infectious enthusiasm” to craft tomorrow’s leaders.

It’s “just in her,” says leadership teacher Donna Holmwood. “It’s innate, she’s had it forever. She has an awareness and wisdom inside her. She’s had it since Grade 7.”

Jennifer Cook, communications co-ordinator at St. Margaret’s agrees. “It’s second nature to her to include everyone and empower those around her.”

Each school year since seventh grade Schell, who hails from Canmore and Calgary, has made Saanich her home. The 18-year-old is among 12 “lifers” to graduate this June, the largest graduating class since the independent all-girls school nestled in the Lake HIll neighbourhood opened in 1908.

“She’s head girl, so she leads council, but they all feel they have conquered the world every time they hold an event,” says Holmwood, who also guides student council. “This year (council) has been an amazing group and I think a lot of it is because of her leadership.”

The teen though, feels she’s working at making sure the girls get the experience she did as a youngster leaving home at a tender age.

“When I came here, I was young and small. I was pretty freaked out,” she says. “I know the process. It’s good to let them know, to kick-start their experience. There were people that did that for me.”

Those people still stand out in her memories of school years as she made the difficult transition from living solely with her mom to sharing space with others her age, and older.

“I had a lot of in your face challenges living in residence,” she says. “I wanted to do as much as I could. It goes in a circle, what goes around comes around.”

Being an international school with a student population of 379 girls from around the world adds to the importance of being inclusive.

“She has the ability to lead when there is a need but just to step back. … Without making them feel she has to do it, she empowers them,” Holmwood says.

Schell is a self-described behind-the-scenes worker, and that’s by design.

“I find that more important, pushing other people forward because that’s what I’ve needed in my life,” Schell says. “I had a lot of people pushing me forward.”

Her peers may not even be fully aware of the way Schell nudges fledgling student leaders into the limelight.

“She empowers her entire team,” agrees Holmwood, who also oversees student council at St. Marg’s. “That’s what leadership is. If she can inspire others to take action and to do more and learn more, then that’s a leader.”

Despite being active among the student population, and her instructors’ views she’s a born leader, Schell says there was a slight lack of confidence that she’d be accepted by her peers to lead council.

“That was a huge step for me last year,” she says.

The students spoke, and the council, led by Schell and made up of mostly girls slated to graduate in June, organize spirit activities around school including St. Marg’s Olympics and cooking up at tasty breakfast for the entire staff.

“All the members are super positive and we act on more ideas than previous councils,” Schell says. “It’s not just one person, it’s a whole group.”

Recently they embarked on an “invisible student, invisible teacher” initiative where the students on council seek out those they don’t know among both peers and instructors, then make the effort to get to know them.

“Our core value for this year is community. So we always come back to that,” Schell says.

Thought goes into every activity. Holmwood says nothing is simply done because it’s “been done before.”

“There’s a real integrity about her,” Holmwood adds. “She thinks about everything that’s happening and why we do it. There’s a real intention with everything she does. She has a real, strong, moral ethic.”

As Schell embarks on her future this June, of which there are many options awaiting her, she’s happy with the person she’s become simply by adapting as things were thrown at her.

“I had this picture of what I would be when I was 16, which I surpassed,” she says. “You can say ‘oh my God’ or you can just go for it. You’ll learn something every time from that.”