Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 22, 2009
Richard Carew: Wrong class, right student
Mistakenly put into gifted learners class, aboriginal student flourishes
WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Richard Carew blossomed after he was put into a gifted learners class at St. Elizabeth Seaton School
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Richard Carew, a student late in registering at St. Elizabeth Seton, was mistakenly enrolled in the gifted class.
New to the school, new to junior high, he thought the whole world was against him.
But through encouragement from teachers who recognized his potential, he was soon transformed from being a Grade 7 student with failing grades who didn't care about his education to attaining high marks and becoming a class leader.
"We figured for a newcomer, maybe it wouldn't be a bad class for him because they seemed to have the most Christian type of kids. What happened in the end, he excelled," explained Danny Checknita, Carew's homeroom teacher last year.
Instead of adopting what one teacher said was a self-pitying attitude common among youth, some native students in Edmonton Catholic Schools have overcome various trials, and pushed themselves towards excellence.
Twenty-four of them were honoured June 11 at the annual students' luncheon at Grant MacEwan Community College's city centre campus.
"Richard showed up every day and started switching around, and became a very well-mannered and sweet kid. Everybody loves Richard," said Checknita.
In English class, students were divided into groups of five to work on projects collaboratively.
"You have your kids who are good verbally and others who are good at doing research. He would get them to work together. Two or three of them got sick for a week, and they just happened to be the ones who were the most vocal and really good speakers. Also, they were the ones who were pretty good mark-wise," said Checknita.
Knowing the project was like a play and that "the show must go on," Carew arranged for them to get their work done. His group received one of the better marks in the class.
What caused the turning point that made him go from failure to overnight success?
"I think he was at a low ebb. I think he just needed to have that feeling of belonging and accomplishing things. Being put in that gifted class, the teachers jumped right on him and saw that he was recoverable," said Checknita.
"He took responsibility and before you knew it, he went from being the last guy picked for groups, and now he's picked either number one or two. People want him in their group because they know he's a hard worker. It's sort of like a miracle in a way."
WORDS OF PRAISE
The 24 students received acknowledgement for their achievements - scholastically, athletically and in the community.
The students were showered with words of praise from teachers, school counsellors, and principals at the luncheon.
One was Danielle Iron. A student from Fresh Start Downtown, she was chosen in a national competition to be a food science researcher for a week at UBC Okanagan.
While her classmates relaxed over spring break, Iron was mentored by a team of researchers, and learned about developing new ways to prevent tree fruits from rotting while in cold storage.
This is the 21st year that the award ceremony has been held. Dedicated elders from the Wahkotowin Kinship Students Society put on the luncheon to honour the students who have shown significant improvement in their attitude, self-esteem, attendance and academics.
"We do our own fundraising. We are a group of aboriginal women who started this 27 years ago, and we want to honour our students," said Eva Bereti, Wahkotowin president from its inception.
"In 21 years, can you imagine how many students we have brought through to feel good about themselves when they leave here?" she asked. "You will hear their stories."
There's 14-year-old Brandyn Funk, who represented Sir John Thompson School in a district-wide Iron Chef contest.
There's Theresa MacKenzie, a student from Archbishop Oscar Romero, who has been selected to be a model for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Of keynote speaker Damian Abrahams' many words, his statement that best summed up the event was, "There's a lot of awesomeness in this room."
RESPECT FOR ELDERS
Proving her awesomeness was Natasha Sharron, from Partners for Youth, who exceeded even her own academic goals by graduating high school in two years instead of three.
"Just by being in this room, I can see that the leaders of tomorrow are already the leaders of today," said Abrahams.
Growing up, he never paid attention to his elders. "Now that I pay attention to the elders, I realize the gifts that they have to offer. I have taken those gifts and made them my own."
Frank Shannon, with the Haida performers, reiterated the comment, "Honour your elders and the people who keep our communities together and keep one another strong."
Most of the award recipients have overcome tremendous obstacles.
Parents, school staff, three native police officers and other professionals attended the event to show the award recipients that success is attainable.