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SUMMARY: The IFL invited US Olympian, Marilyn King, founder of the concept of Olympian Thinking, to inspire First Nations participants to be successful in school and extracurricular pursuits.


US Olympian Marilyn King, founder of Olympian Thinking


Dr. Desmond Berghofer and Dr. Geraldine Schwartz, co-organizers of Dare to Imagine

Dare to Imagine

A seminar for First Nations Leaders and Educators

This project set out to address a serious barrier to success in schools for First Nations Youth: These children and their parents did not see themselves as successful learners.

To address this problem, the International Foundation of Learning invited Marilyn King, Olympian and creator of the ‘Dare to Imagine Project’ for business leaders and later applied to disadvantaged youth in California.

Marilyn had been on the Faculty of Creative Learning International’s very successful “Masters Course for Creative Thinkers” held in Vancouver for leaders in business, education, sports and government in 1989 and 1990 for more than 1,000 participants.

In these courses, Marilyn taught Olympic technology using imagery and mental rehearsal which she called “ The Master Skill of High Achievers.” She received standing ovations from the participant leaders.

In March 1991, in partnership with two other faculty in the Master’s courses, (Dr. Geraldine Schwartz and Dr. Desmond Berghofer of Creative Learning International) the Squamish Nation and the International Foundation of Learning presented:


Dare to Imagine

A seminar for First Nations Leaders and Educators


The program had three basic thrusts:

  1. Olympian Education for Peak Performance, directed to children, youth (and their teachers), presenter: Marilyn Kind, Olympian, pentathlete.

  2. Creativity Applied to School Success, directed to children and youth (and their teachers), presenter: Geraldine Schwartz, Ph.D.

  3. Strategic Visioning for Communities, directed to economic and personal development of adults (especially to leaders), presenter: Desmond Berghofer, Ph.D.


With the theme

“If you can imagine it with crystal clarity, vision it strongly,
and develop the creative skills to achieve it....
it can be done.”

The event was chaired by Ron Penner, educator and consultant on First Nations issues, who had a full career in the federal government’s Ministry of Indian Affairs, working on educational issues of concern to the participants. It was also supported by IFL Director Owen Anderson, who also had a full career as a leader in the federal government’s Ministry of Indian Affairs.

At a subsequent meeting of the Board Directors, Ron Penner reported a capacity audience for this facility including 41 registrants from 13 First Nation constituencies. He reported on follow-up conversations with First Nations leaders and elders including Archie Patrick, Gordon Reid, Rick Petra and Francine Norris.

A follow-up process was set in motion and Ron reported he had good conversations with nine of the 13 constituencies including Cindy Louis, Marilyn Napoleon, Mae Harris and Barbara White.

It was noted that 1993 was the United Nations year for the Indigenous Peoples and various proposals to continue the follow-up and to celebrate the year in a special way were proposed.

It should be noted that this program was put on as a gift to First Nations People by the IFL and participants were specifically invited to attend as guests.

There were subsequent meetings and follow through to this event and The Vancouver Learning Centre Language Box Project, emerged. A research grant provided by the Squamish Nation funded a pilot project for 80, three and four-year old Squamish children, 40 from a preschool in Squamish and the other 40 children from a preschool in North Vancouver. The children’s teachers and parents were also in attendance.

This three-year project trained six First Nations teachers who provided the program and who continued to train parent volunteers in both communities. It also provided a special library of children’s books, children’s picture dictionaries and nursery rhyme books.

In September 1995, when Marilyn King was returning to Vancouver for a business workshop, she agreed to do an evening workshop for Squamish youth. This event took place at the beautiful First Nations Squamish, Osleham Learning Centre in Vancouver.

Follow-up – Outcome

While stable, long-term connections cannot take place with changing players and a non-profit society without a regular infrastructure such as the one provided by government or tribal agencies, it must be said that the events described and the energy expanded to the follow-up with the First Nations constituencies had a positive effect on individuals who participated in these dynamic programs with substantive enthusiasm.

The strategy of engaging inspirational leaders from within the institutional structures allowed the IFL to continuously pull above its weight in delivering many events throughout the eighties and nineties and the event to celebrate the coming millennium was one of the most memorable.

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