Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 26, 2007
Aboriginal leadership academy opens Sept.
Cree bilingual academy honours elder Eva Bereti
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Edmonton Catholic Schools is setting up a leadership academy for aboriginal children.
The Eva Bereti Cree Leadership Academy, named after an Aboriginal elder and long-term employee of Edmonton Catholic Schools, will open with kindergarten and Grade 1 in September at Our Lady of Peace Elementary School, 15911-110 Ave.
The Cree bilingual academy will focus on cultural understanding as well as promoting a positive self-image and leadership skills for Aboriginal children, explained Our Lady of Peace principal Kathy Kiss.
"Students will have a chance to be involved in not just their language and their culture, but robotics and science and computers too. So they will have a chance to do all kinds of things. We want them to be confident learners and good citizens."
Cultural events and teachings will be integrated into the Catholic program of studies.
More students needed
Our Lady of Peace is the ideal site for the Cree academy because more than 40 per cent of the 238 students at the school are of Aboriginal origin, Kiss said. To date, eight students have registered for the academy. A minimum of 16 registrations is needed for the program to start in the fall.
Bereti, 69, is an Aboriginal elder who has worked with the Edmonton Catholic School District for 32 years as a counsellor for native students, a coordinator of initiatives in native education, a cultural coordinator and a classroom instructor for native studies and arts.
She retired five years ago, but Kiss brought her out of retirement and she is currently helping set up the academy.
"She is our resident elder and she is here on a daily basis. We think of her as the grandma in the library, but she works with all the kids in the building. But certainly she is here for my aboriginal kids," the principal said.
"She also does professional development with the staff and counsels the kids and the parents. Eva is a very critical part of getting this (academy) off the ground and going the right direction because she definitely understands the academic part of school as well as the culture that we need to teach the kids."
Bereti, a mother and grandmother, is the recipient of numerous awards including the woman of the year award from the Business and Professional Women's Club, the cultural achievement award from the City of Edmonton and an achievement award from the Alberta Native Women's Society.
She is also recognized in the Canadian Encyclopedia as a strong Aboriginal woman who survived breast cancer through traditional healing.
"I'm very honoured and humbled they named this (academy) after me; it's not something that I expected," Bereti said Feb. 21. "My hope is that the children will learn the language. If they know their language they will understand their culture. And with encouragement from their parents, children, our future leaders, will have a good mind and a strong spirit."
Kiss proposed the academy be named after Bereti "because I've watched her inspire kids for over 30 years.
"For me it was an opportunity to acknowledge what Eva's already done and what she will continue to do for the kids in the program. Eva truly believes that each child is given a special talent and she guides students to develop that talent and become a leader."
Kiss said the academy is being set up because "there has been a strong interest expressed in this. We have definitely a lot of parents who are looking for this kind of education for their children."
The Eva Bereti Cree Academy is one of two Cree bilingual programs in the Edmonton Catholic School District. St. Francis of Assisi Elementary offers Cree bilingual for kindergarten to Grade 2 students and will add Grade 3 in September. The Eva Bereti Academy may add Grade 2 in 2008.