Why We Exist
Tasha is a quiet, reserved student from a Blackfoot Nations community. Attending classes at a Strathmore high school was challenging and she was expelled because of it. Moving back to her community school, her new teacher recognizes that she has great abilities, inner strength and ideas, but limited initiatives and opportunities to use them.
That teacher decides to offer Tasha the opportunity to participate in a diversity leadership program. Knowing very little about it, Tasha signs up because it offers five high school credits that can help her graduate.
She arrives on Monday night at Kamp Kiwanis for the four day onsite portion of the program along with 65 other students from Alberta high schools. She has never been away from home overnight before and it feels far too overwhelming meeting these other students from many different backgrounds and communities. She is really missing her family and wants to go home. Tasha finally decides to stay, but on the second day, a comment about land claims from someone upsets her because she felt it was a discriminatory statement about Indigenous people.
Tasha finds the courage to speak up even though she really just wants to leave and go home. On expressing her concern to Tim, the individual responsible for the statement, he immediately apologizes. Through their discussion, he explains what he had really meant to say and offers to apologize to the whole group for the unintentionally hurtful comment. Tasha agrees to stay one more day. After that group apology, Tasha is feeling heard and a little more confidant. During that day, there are two presenters that have an immediate impact on her. Alison shares ways to find and see the positive attributes that we each have and Tasha is surprised to hear from her group members about some of the strengths that they see in her. Later she hears Cory speak from the heart about living with a physical disability, Cerebral Palsy. The messages from these two sessions resonate and are a turning point for Tasha, who is so grateful that she stayed until the last day.
Tasha returns to her school with a new confidence and purpose. With her fellow students, she feels empowered to create a “Be the Change” project to teach others about Blackfoot culture. Connecting with neighbouring schools in Strathmore, they do their first tipi building workshop with Grade 3 students in December 2016. That school is so thrilled with the impact on their students, they want Tasha and her group to return to do it again next year. Meanwhile, the word spreads and another school asks them to do the same workshop with their Grade 4 students. And the story continues: in the fall of 2017, Tasha and the team have been contracted to do nine tipi building workshops with nearby schools!
Inspired by the leadership program experience, Tasha is an amazing example of a young person taking meaningful action to create understanding and change.
This is only one story of hundreds from Alberta high school students, who are inspired by the CONNECTIONS Leadership Porgram to take action in their communities to create change.