Canadian poet Wali Shah, former NHL’er Corey Hirsch, author, activist and empowerment coach Ashley Bendiksen, and successful Salmon Arm entrepreneur Missy MacKintosh are among the guest speakers participating in the Shuswap Youth Launch event on Thursday, Feb. 25. (Shuswap Youth Launch image)

Canadian poet Wali Shah, former NHL’er Corey Hirsch, author, activist and empowerment coach Ashley Bendiksen, and successful Salmon Arm entrepreneur Missy MacKintosh are among the guest speakers participating in the Shuswap Youth Launch event on Thursday, Feb. 25. (Shuswap Youth Launch image)

Shuswap youth excited to launch inspiring virtual event

Corey Hirsch, Wali Shah, Missy MacKintosh among guest speakers

A team of Salmon Arm youth are looking forward to seeing a community event they’ve been planning for more than a year finally take flight.

Shuswap Youth Launch, a virtual leadership event designed by youth for youth, will take place over Zoom between 9:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Thurday, Feb. 25. The interactive event will feature inspirational talks from guest speakers including: Canadian poet, TED Talk and We Day veteran Wali Shah; former NHL’er Corey Hirsch; author, activist and empowerment coach Ashley Bendiksen; and successful Salmon Arm entrepreneur Missy MacKintosh, founder of MisMacK Clean Cosmetics.

The Shuswap Launch Team who put the event together includes Mikayla Wilkinson, Abbigail Paetsch, Caillie Hay-Vicars, Brynn Gowan and Claire Waite. Maggie Beckner and Dayton Massey were also part of the initial planning committee but stepped down due to scheduling conflicts. Members of the Salmon Arm Rotary Club served as mentors, helping the students create an event that will connect with, motivate and educate fellow teens.

“A conference sounds like a boring adult business thing,” said Mikayla. “We created a design for youth and what appeals to our age group.”

Read more: Salmon Arm teen takes enthusiastic action on climate change

Read more: Speaker’s outlook inspirational

One way of doing this is by keeping the event interactive, with dance and movement breaks, fun polls and chances to win interactive materials. And, in addition to being able to interact with the guest speakers, the event is also an opportunity for students to connect with their peers throughout the Shuswap.

Getting Shuswap Youth Launch off the ground has taken longer than anticipated. It started with a successful RBC Future Launch grant application in November 2019. From there, the team started planning for a live event that was to take place at the Salmar Classic Theatre last April. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was postponed.

While that in-person connection may be lost, explained Mikayla, the upcoming virtual event is something many more people can take part in.

“I think having to revise and come back to it actually helped us develop our event a lot more and now we can go into more depth,” said Mikayla. The delay also provided an opportunity to put together what Mikayla described as a more well-rounded panel of guest speakers who will touch on a range of topics, from sports and disabilities to mental health and healthy relationships, inclusivity and leadership.

Though tailored to youth, Mikayla said the event is open to all.

“Even adults are welcome to join, and home school and private school and everything.”

The event is free, though registration is required online through

Supporters of the event include RBC, the Shuswap Community Foundation, the Rotary Club of Salmon Arm and School District 83.

Even though the first Shuswap Youth Launch has yet to take place, Mikayla said there is already interest among supporters to do future events. In the meantime, Mikayla said she and other organizers will be practising their Zoom as they prepare to host this large virtual event.

“We’re going to practice with sound switching and screen sharing and we’re very nervous about that,” laughed Mikayla. “We can hopefully be successful.”

More information about the event can be found on the Shuswap Launch Facebook page.

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