• JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 74
Monday, 18 April 2011 07:59

Women Without Borders-Sletten involved in many projects

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)

By Elizabeth Heatcoat
Capitalizing on the energy and innovation of a community’s quest, from the kitchen table to the globe.

At least one day a week, her van becomes her office as she sits and waits for the students who are exploring career opportunities in Swift Current, this is another woman always on the go.

“I always say, ‘I will sleep when I am dead,” she chuckled. In the meantime, Kristy Sletten wears many hats. She is the Principal of Hazlet School, along with that she headed the community’s international exchange program at the school and now she has thrown her company Southwest Wind Energy into the mix.

When we caught up with Sletten she was in her van waiting for students to finish their work experience program. About four years ago, Sletten decided to re-vamp the Career and Work Exploration Course and take the students out of their rural community to the different trades or professions they were interested in.

It was an “opportunity to give them another piece of the puzzle,” and let them get their fingers dirty as they decide what type of future they want to pursue, commented Sletten.

Throughout the course the students are being introduced to networking at the professional level. The same students and the community are also experiencing the exchange of ideas and cultures at the global level, through the school’s international program.

Once upon a time, there was a school facing declining enrolment numbers, the story begins;

“We had an opportunity to do some soul searching and figure out what might work for the school,” explained Sletten. It was then they identified the international program. To date, nearly 50 students from approximately 20 different countries have called the Village of Hazlet home for a year.

“In terms of the success of the international program, without the networking that we did that program would not have sustained itself for this long,” said Sletten.

The first demographic the organizers engaged were the other teachers at the school. From there the community and surrounding RM was next to jump on board. Not only as host parents, but broadening access to other cultures. From there, each committee could be seen reaching out and making connections to “the support systems they required to build a strong foundation.”

That was just the start, explained Sletten. With the foundation in place it was time to start building the global networks to recruit students to the program.

“The majority of networking (with recruitment agents) has happened online. E-mail in the beginning and now SKYPE is important for maintaining relationships with agents,” noted Sletten. There isn’t a large budget for recruitment.

Throughout the last two years of the program, the need to cultivate the agent relationships became apparent. The organizers found that, “without a meaningful personal relationship with the agents” little happened to bring students into the building. Thus, more regular contact was needed.

Who has really benefited from the local and international networks pursued by the school? In short, everyone.

“Economically it has been amazing,” said Sletten. “The international program helped people believe it was possible to sustain ourselves,” and has “revived peoples hope.” There has also been an infusion of population into the community.

“I think that you can credit some of that to the hope that it has given people, in the fact that sustainable lifestyle is possible in rural Saskatchewan.”

The community has now created the Hazlet Economic Development Committee, and combined three generations of ideas.    

“(The committee) has ‘group-think’ (The power that people have to come up with great ideas when brainstorming), happening” explained Sletten.

Hazlet now prides itself in its ability to be an innovative leader in many areas.

“That is not something we would have said ten years ago,” said Sletten.

One of the innovative projects pursued by the community was the installation of a Wind Turbine to power the rink complex’s artificial ice plant. With no projects to reference, there was a huge learning curve.

“I think people that are involved with innovative projects go into it understanding that they aren’t going to have a lot of support in that area,” said Sletten. Any level of networking helps ease the process. “But, we know that we are going to build the capacity to support others when they want to do the same thing.”

It was the local rink project that spawned the idea for Southwest Wind Energy. Sletten then used connections made through the project to build the distribution company. She is excited to share her variety of experiences and connections as a panellist at the Women Without Borders Networking Conference on May 25th, 2011.

Read 1028 times

More In Entertainment...