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Blog: Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Empowering Our Indigenous Youth

Listening Leaders

Empowering our youth to speak their truth and engage in change is a priority for us at the Indigenous Department.  Abbotsford School District is part of the Equity in Action scan with the Ministry of Education.  We are examining levels of awareness of privilege and bias and having brave and challenging conversations about system barriers that our students have faced in our country and in our district.  Targeting responses with direct support for our secondary students to share their truth, embrace opportunities and be supported to achieve and impact change for themselves and in their schools and communities.

Specific initiatives include a team at each secondary school with a Teacher for Indigenous Success and an Indigenous Support Worker (ISW) working together to connect one-to-one with our students.  As well we have two ISW charged with creating special experiences for secondary students including cultural fieldtrips like snowshoeing and visits to universities. Our goal is to support our students to see themselves in a positive future and provide opportunities and strategies for students to share their stories, to demonstrate their pride in their culture and to thrive in our schools and beyond.

Secondary principals and vice-principals heard from a team of six Indigenous youth at their professional development day. The students shared their experiences as an Indigenous student.  Students shared examples of deep learning experiences when they felt engaged and connected to the learning.  They shared examples of times they had felt discrimination or racism and how that impacted them.  They shared things that were important to them culturally and suggestions about how to hold up these cultural values in schools.  As a department we are grateful to Mr. Bondi for providing the time and space for student voice and for leaders to listen. And thankful for dedicated leaders who are supporting change and improvement systems for all our students!

District Indigenous Youth Leadership

A District Indigenous Leadership group of students from our secondary schools, started meeting weekly to learn leadership skills, and to plan, co-create, promote and facilitate special cultural events for their fellow Indigenous secondary students. The group has been learning about what leadership is, what it involves, who some Indigenous leaders are along with some current issues that they deal with. To help bring this to life, Marie Bercier, a local Metis Elder and artist was their inspirational guest.  Marie founded the Fraser Valley Metis Association and is a residential school survivor. She shared stories from her life, her amazing art and the challenges and achievements as an Indigenous leader.  

Students are planning future events such as a Métis Kitchen Party for secondary Indigenous students across the District, which will take place at the Centre on Feb. 27.  As well they are planning sessions to share at the May 15 Walking Forward Together conference.  Thank you to Michele Schroeder for starting this initiative along with planning fieldtrips for our secondary students.

Snowshoeing

Fifty of our Indigenous Youth participated in snowshoeing lessons and learning at Sasquatch Mountain in December!  Time for students to connect with the land, learn from nature and appreciate a day of fresh air, friendship and learning as a way to celebrate Indigenous history and enjoy meeting students from across the district. 

DARLENE MACDONALD
District Principal, Indigenous Education