Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 14, 2010
Aboriginal students rise above obstacles
Wahkotowin Society honours 23 students for their accomplishments
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - The Wahkotowin (Kinship) Society has again honoured aboriginal students in Edmonton Catholic Schools who have overcome great obstacles to achieve their goals.
The society held its 22nd annual awards luncheon June 3 at the U of A Faculty Club to honour 23 students.
Common traits among the award recipients were the pride in their respective heritages, desire to be role models for other youth, determination to improve in their studies, and strong ambassadorship for their schools.
There's Grant Michetti, from Cardinal Leger Junior High School, who was described by his teachers as patient, polite, respectful, resourceful and helpful. Then there's Kayly Ann Faith Gray, from Fresh Start North, who has matured into a positive person with a drive and passion for success.
Students were showered with praise from teachers, advisors and principals during the luncheon.
Saying the opening prayer and blessing the meal was Elder Bob Cardinal. "They call this the City of Champions. I see a lot of champions here," he said.
Dr. Daniel McKennitt emceed the awards luncheon and told the guests that native people represent a significant portion of the Canadian population, but face unique problems.
"The demographics within the aboriginal population are quite different from any other group in Canada. For one thing, the aboriginal population is young," said McKennitt. "Thirty-eight per cent of the aboriginal population is under the age of 15, compared with just 21 per cent of the non-aboriginal population."
HIGH SCHOOL COMPLETION
He cited a news story that stated less than 40 per cent of aboriginal students graduate high school. Alberta has even worse results, with about 25 per cent of aboriginals finishing Grade 12.
"Be proud in receiving these awards. Aboriginal youth must become empowered and take control of your lives and your health," said McKennitt.
As a medical doctor, he knows firsthand that the health of Canada's young aboriginal people is in jeopardy. He founded the Aboriginal Health Group at the University of Alberta, bringing attention to the city's aboriginal community and the health issues affecting them. He also developed Butt Out, a tobacco awareness program for youth.
"Rates of diabetes, suicide, sexually transmitted diseases, injury and pregnancy - the list goes on - are all higher in our aboriginal youth populations.
"Our aboriginal youth are living in poverty, and put into culturally inappropriate and insensitive settings. They are losing more of their identity every day," he said.
McKennitt took great pleasure in seeing the aboriginal youth in the audience who have succeeded in many endeavours, including academics, sports, art, and music.
"I encourage all of you to seek out a mentor and support person, a teacher, a friend, an elder, someone you can talk to when you're not so sure of things," he told the students.
Standouts among the award winners were Daniel Halbauer (Louis St. Laurent Junior High), Threna Marie Waskahat (Partners for Youth) and honour student Megan Leween (St. Elizabeth Seton).
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