The future is bright considering Ponoka’s Leaders of Tomorrow had 47 youths nominated this year.
The awards were held April 23 at Ponoka Secondary Campus. The Leaders of Tomorrow awards brought nominees and their family together to celebrate the young volunteers and all they do to help others. This year’s theme was dubbed The Road Not Taken and keynote speaker Koren Lightning-Earle’s theme was exactly that.
Her road to becoming a lawyer and president of the Indigenous Bar Association was one that took a roundabout path. That road started with her parents who held education at a high standard.
Along with a drive to continue her education was a desire to be involved, not only in her professional life but as a teenager in her high school years. While she never thought she would become a lawyer, she had some of the tools needed to the do the job.
“I like to argue. I like to be an advocate,” said Lightning-Earle.
Being Cree First Nations and from the Samson Cree Nation is an important part of Lightning-Earle’s story. She told attendees that advocacy became a real focus for her when she was at a clothing store at a mall trying on clothes. A security guard told her she and her friend had to leave as they suspected her of stealing clothing.
“That was my first exposure in terms of advocacy,” said Lightning-Earle.
While she did speak up for herself, she didn’t have the knowledge of the laws and her rights as a citizen. It was there that she delved further into her law studies. “It’s learning a system of laws that I was not accustomed to.”
The work hasn’t been all glamour. She has had to make some tough decisions in her advocacy work.
“Not everything that you’re going to do that is right, is popular,” said Lightning-Earle.
Despite this challenge she suggests that with a strong, supportive group of individuals, following through with plans is easier to do. One thing she recognizes is that over the years she was always supported, whether it was family, professional contacts or friends. “It’s those people and those connections that allow you to be a leader.”
Since then Lightning-Earle’s professional life has grown and so does her resume, which includes being the CEO of Thunderbird Law as well as being a former councillor on the Samson Cree Nation.
“The road is not always easy and there’s always obstacles,” she added.
“You have to remember who you are and why you do these things,” she concluded.
Other attendees included Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr, Mayor Rick Bonnett, Ponoka County Reeve Paul McLauchlin and PSC principal Ian Rawlinson.
There were 18 nominees in the Elementary category with all nominees receiving a certificate. Of the nine Junior nominees there were two who received the Leaders of Tomorrow Junior award: Zoe Pitre and Kaylee Dodds. For the senior there were 20 nominees with Stefanie Hatala and Hailey Rausch being awarded Leaders of Tomorrow Senior award.