Home > Stuff About Carisa > What ever became of the da Vinci Society?

What ever became of the da Vinci Society?

In 2004 a small group of students had a strong will to take their educations and their community involvement into their own hands. From one seemingly mundane meeting of 8 youth at a little coffee shop after school to weekly meetings of an officially recognized society at the Arusha Center the da Vinci Society came along way in only a few short years.

The Society’s concept was originally part of short story I’d been writing; three high school students work together in the hopes of creating a support network for socially aware teens to become active in their communities and study pursuits outside the regular curriculum.

The story went no where, however it did serve as a road map to fill a need in he local community and my life in particular. I recruited a few friends in the beginning, but eventually they were replaced by individuals interested in the goals of the society and not just helping me get my idea off the ground.

After months operating out of cafes and libraries we were offered a home at the Arusha Center and decided to make it official and get status as a society. With Juliet Burgess as VP and Emily Sharp in charge of the secretarial and financial details we grew as a happy and healthy program. Juliet describes it as “a chance to learn freely without fear of judgment, being taboo/risque or being misinformed.”

We continued to grow, volunteering around town, teaching classes to one another on topics of interest, bringing in speakers and attempting to encourage growth in each other. It wasn’t long before we attracted some media attention and eventually the attention of a few in school program coordinators. The society was asked to write a version of our program that would run as a club at lunch hours in schools in Alberta and we were overjoyed to accommodate.

Not long after that the core group became taxed by outside commitments and the society dissolved, but the lessons we learned together at Arusha served us well.

Juliet went on to become the youngest female to every run for Federal office. She ran for the Green Party provincially in Calgary Mountainview and got more votes than any Green candidate ever had in that district. Now she’s General Manager of an indie Theatre Company (Theatre BSMT) and works with Urban Curvz Theatre, as an “Artistic Associate”. She is also the Co-Chair for the Take Back the Night committee.

She says “ DVS indeed contributed to my life as it was some sort of gateway into adulthood for me. Like, it was the first chance I had to make things work for me in the real world.”

Emily went on to volunteer extensively with the Miscellaneous Youth Network, CJSW 90.9FM, Queers on Campus of the U of C and currently working with Animal Bylaw. Her professional trajectory has been almost entirely in the non-for-profit sector, from the Drop-In Centre to Immigrant Services Calgary. She believes that “The da Vinci Society set the stage for how I view youth projects now, with the youth firmly in leadership roles, seeking to empower and act as partners with youth.”

Myself, after da Vinci I went on volunteering with various organization such as Youth Week, Child and Youth Friendly Calgary and the YMCA eventually landing a full time position with the Boys and Girls Club of Canada running programs for ages 5-17 for a couple years. I currently work as an entertainer and run my web design company as well as work to maintaining my practice as an emerging artist after studying at the Alberta College of Art and Design. The da Vinci Society was the first time I had to lead or organize people. It gave me a taste for continued learning and showed me I could make my dreams real if I only work hard and trusted in smart and capable people.

Check out remnants of the old website on Wayback Machine.

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Categories: Stuff About Carisa
  1. October 28, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    How lovely – it’s true that the DVS was a great starting point for all of us – I don’t think anyone looks back on our first attempt at making real change in the adult world with anything but fondness…

    Well written, C-dog!

  2. October 29, 2010 at 1:09 am

    Just as I was starting grade 12 my oldest brother gave me a copy of “The Teenage Liberation Handbook” that is all about this sort of un-schooling, Taking control of your own education and reaping the rewards. It was a little late to have a profound affect on my life, but it inspired me and gave me “confirmation” of sorts of some frustrations I had.

    I hope that, should the day come I find myself owning children, they have such inspiring friends as you!

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