The annual spring feast organized and hosted by the Elders, staff, students and volunteers at Amiskwaciy Academy in Edmonton was another successful venture this year. The Academy welcomed students and staff from area schools, community partners, volunteers, media and others to join in as the school celebrated the coming of spring and the renewal of life with another outstanding meal from the kitchen staff and many words of wisdom and thanks from the podium.
In his opening address, Principal Fred Hines acknowledged “the many supporters, donors, mentors, Aboriginal relations workers, teachers, support workers, staff members, healthy lunch program workers” and others who “play an integral role” in the development and education of the Amiskwaciy student body.
Elder Francis Whiskeyjack talked about spring, “a season of renewal, a season of hope, a time when new life from the planet and animal world begins anew.” He thanked the room full of special guests, students and teachers and talked about another successful year in the making, reminding students that perseverance and hard work would help them achieve their academic goals. He shared these thoughts in last month’s school newsletter when he said: “In order to achieve success one has to be committed to daily attendance, because success requires self-discipline. To make a positive choice, you must believe that it is possible to succeed by applying yourself to be the best you can be. We are enjoying field trips within the community that link with Aboriginal history, class projects, and trips that showcase Aboriginal values to other agencies and schools. I like these because of the student involvement in gaining the confidence to share openly in public by demonstrating our talking circle teachings. To the team, thank you for your caring, sensitivity, and wonderful work that you do, you are family at Amiskwaciy. Thank you all for your ever continuing support.”
The 2014 Spring Feast, as in the years past, honoured partners and community members for their extraordinary work and dedication to learning. Edmonton Police Services Superintendent Tony Harder was welcomed to the podium where he was presented with a Honour Blanket in recognition of the fine work and ongoing participation that EPS provides as one of school’s community partners.
Elder Whiskeyjack induced a cheerful round of applause from the 200 or more people who filled the upper floor cafeteria when he welcomed Principal Hines to the podium and presented him with an honour blanket for the hard work and achievements he’s accomplished over the past few years.
“You work hard for our students and our staff and this year we at the school want to honour you for the efforts and achievements you’ve made over the years to ensure that our student body has every resource they need to succeed,” noted Elder Whiskeyjack.
The blanket, he explained, is a symbol of appreciation for ongoing commitment and extraordinary effort.
Amiskwaciy Academy is located in a former airport terminal building in Edmonton that was designed and renovated in consultation with Elders, students and educators in order to create a unique learning environment. The Spring Feast is one of several gatherings that the academy hosts each year to thank the many sponsors, helpers, students, families, volunteers, Elders, organizations and others who support the school in so many different ways.
“We are very appreciative of the volunteer support we receive each year to help with our events,” assured Principal Hines. “We are always in need of volunteers and individuals with coaching or other special skills and we welcome inquiries throughout the school year.”
If you have time on your hands and would like to participate as one of the many volunteers needed each year to help with events such as Aboriginal Games Day, Feast Days, Open Houses, educational trade shows and other gatherings, Amiskwaciy Academy would like to hear from you.
Amiskwaciy is an Edmonton Public School program of choice that provides solid academic programming within an Aboriginal context. The school, which is open to students of all backgrounds and cultures, honours the Aboriginal community and reflects its cultures, values, ancestral knowledge and traditions in achieving excellence in education. In doing so it provides, with the help of school and community Elders, a meaningful and balanced curriculum, bringing together the uniqueness of Aboriginal cultures, knowledge and languages in a positive and quality educational setting.
Culture is the core of everything that takes place at Amiskwaciy Academy. Working extensively and in close contact with on-site Elders, the school’s administration maintains close partnerships with the Cree, Stoney and Metis communities in and around the Capital Region. The Academy maintains an on-going cultural exchange program with a number of Edmonton-area elementary schools.
“Amiskwaciy Academy,” noted Principal Hines, “was designed to offer exciting enrichment programming for junior high and high school students in a respectful, safe environment. At Amiskwaciy, we recognize that all beings are connected and our teaching styles and learning opportunities reflect this belief. Our Elder’s teachings, our community partners, family involvement, and a committed teaching staff provide a holistic learning environment. We believe that our school philosophy is demonstrated best through our harmonious communal approach to learning.”
The Academy has developed partnerships with post secondary institutions and the private sector to provide both articulated transitions for students after grade 12, and work-based learning opportunities.
“The first priority of the Academy,” he noted, “is to provide a learning environment that is both safe and academically challenging. Our aim is to prepare students for entrance into post secondary programs. While we recognize that not all students may choose to attend a college or university, we believe that our students should be able to make the decision from a position of strength.”
Enrolment numbers at Amiskwaciy Academy vary from year to year but the school always wants to hear from members of the community interested in the unique program structure offered at the Academy. Amiskwaciy is a cultural enrichment program guided by its Cree Elder. The school offers several programs that provide additional support to all students within its academic programming who have unique needs. Students are given the tools and supports needed to be successful learners and responsible citizens in their respective communities.
“We expect the best from our students and help them set realistic achievable goals,” noted Assistant Principal Shaun Lafferty. “It is our belief that education is about helping students making a strong connection with who they are: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. This is what makes Amiskwaciy’s programming unique. Come see what we can do for you.”
For more information on academic programming visit the website at: www.education.alberta.ca/teachers/program or contact Shaun at 780-424-1270.
by John Copley
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