Some of the most outstanding First Nations students in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district were honoured at the sixth annual Aboriginal Achievement Awards.
The event was held on May 30 at Thomas Haney secondary, with a celebratory dinner prepared by the chef and culinary arts students. Some 600 guests took part.
“It’s a great event. There’s a very strong sense of community, and a very strong sense of involvement,” said Ron Lanzarotta, district principal of aboriginal education.
The Spirit Eagle Award is one of the most prestigious each year, and this year it went to two students who overcame tragedies in their personal lives but still persevered with their education: graduates Amos Topping of Westview secondary and Josie Pearce of Garibaldi secondary.
The Kwantlen Community Impact Award goes to a student who consistently demonstrates ongoing community involvement and improves their community. This year’s award winner is Kelly Paton of Pitt Meadows secondary.
The school district sponsors the Si:jam Cultural Leadership Award, for a student who has demonstrated cultural leadership in their school and/or community. This year the winners are Andrew Sylvester of Pitt Meadows secondary and Car Sinclair of Connex.
The Five-Year Award of Excellence is given to students who have been nominated by their school staff for at least two categories as well as being on the A or B Honour Roll for all terms/semesters for five years. There were 12 winners this year: Kendra Anderson (GSS), Janelle Brown-Walkus (THSS), Bronte Campbell (PMSS), Rosie Cooper (GSS), Kate Crawford (MRSS), Alana Goodall (MRSS), Kelly Paton (PMSS), Darbee-Rose Peragine (SRT), Jessee-Sue Peragine (SRT), Faith Phillips (GSS), Tyler Stefurak (PMSS) and Alexandra Trottier (SRT).
In the annual logo contest, a student must create an original drawing with a supporting write-up. The theme for this year was “All My Relations.”
The elementary logo contest winner was Charlie Watkins from Eric Langton, and the secondary winner was Raine Larson of Maple Ridge secondary.
“The goal is to acknowledge them, and encourage aboriginal youth to continue to pursue education,” said Lanzarotta.
The graduation rate for aboriginal students is lower than the overall rate in B.C. However, the local district has a rate of 67 per cent for such students, which compares favourably to the provincial rate of 54 per cent.
The local school district has 1, 100 students who self identify as being aboriginal.