When I arrived at Catapult in 2010, it was as a very broken person. I had moved to Nova Scotia from BC a year before, and during my first year at my new school I was bullied relentlessly. I had developed an eating disorder, I was incredibly depressed, and felt all alone in my new home. I was absolutely terrified to attend, because I thought it would be more of the same: a group of new people, rejecting me and making me feel like an outsider.
I have never been so wrong in my life.
I got on the bus in Truro and immediately became fast friends with everyone there. We introduced ourselves, talked about school, our friends, and our lives, and excitedly chattered about what we thought the next week would hold. I remember being surprised at how immediately comfortable I was with these strangers, because I was NOT a social person when I was 15 and generally tended to be reserved and scared to speak up for fear of getting ridiculed or rejected.
The best way I can describe arriving at Acadia is the feeling of coming home. Even though I didn’t know a single person, I had this feeling that this was going to be the experience of a lifetime. I was right.
The most memorable thing for me, about Catapult, is the way it gave me the tools to not only have an incredibly successful high school career, but to excel in other areas of my life. I learned how to advocate for myself, and to stand up for others. I learned that leadership didn’t necessarily mean being the loudest, or the bossiest, but to be the person who sets an example for others to follow. Most importantly, I learned that I wasn’t as broken as I thought; I was whole, all on my own.
I went back to my school to start Grade 10 in the fall after Catapult and was a different person. The next 3 years were by no means easy, but I had developed the skills necessary to survive and thrive. I became very involved in my school’s Junior Achievement chapter, and got to travel all over the province learning about business and entrepreneurship and perfecting my public speaking skills. I was elected student council president in my Grade 12 year, and drew on a lot of Catapult activities to help build on the importance of leadership in my council. As an adult, I am confident in interviews, in meeting new people, and in all kinds of areas that you don’t necessarily realize are going to be important at 15, but are absolutely crucial. Catapult gave me those skills, and I’m thankful for that every time I impress someone with my killer handshake.
But for me, the aspect of Catapult that continues to bless me, over and over again, are the lasting friendships that I formed there. This summer I had the pleasure of watching my friend Beth, who was in my family group at Catapult, get married. I was able to suffer through my mandatory science elective at SMU this year (if you’re a BA student you know how horrific this can be) with my friend Tyler, who left me my very first Care Card that I still have pinned to my bulletin board in my apartment today. And Liam, who has helped me move apartments THREE times and has been the recipient of way too many late-night emergency phone calls, still remembers laughing at me while we did Friday Night Lights with the Acadia Axemen football team (Note: I have never and never will be “athletically inclined” so his laughter was completely warranted.)
If you had told me as a scared 15 year old kid that this camp was going to result in these lifelong friendships, and that at 21 I would still be in regular contact with many of the amazing people I met there, I would have told you that you were insane. But that’s the beauty of Catapult. It gets you out of your shell, strips away the restrictions that we all are facing at 15, and teaches you how to be a better version of yourself. Nothing at Catapult ever made me feel as though I weren’t good enough, or that I needed to fix myself. It gave me the tools and the confidence to succeed at school, in my relationships, and in all aspects of my adult life. And in that process, while being my true, unfiltered self, I met other people who became my support system.
I can honestly say that I look back on my life as “before” and “after” Catapult. It changed me in the best possible way, and I am better for it. When I talk about how before Catapult I was quiet and reserved, people simply don’t believe me, because I am a completely different person now. The Emily who got on the bus in Truro was changed forever, and I thank Catapult every single day of my life for that.