Cree student wins first ever FNMI Shining Star award

“I think winning this award has shined a lot of light on the people able to do good,” Latiya Northwest

Latiya Northwest

Latiya Northwest

Not only did a dedicated Ponoka student win first place for the Alberta School Board Association Indigenous Shining Star award, she’s also the first to have ever won the award, period.

Latiya Northwest, a Grade 11 student at St. Augustine Catholic School, is proud and humbled to have won the award in the name of her Maskwacis community.

Northwest discovered she was the inaugural recipient of the award a few weeks ago in her principal’s office at school. “I was really honoured. I was happy I was being acknowledged as a leader.”

Northwest takes an active role in representing her community reciting the Cree prayer for cultural events. She also regularly receives honours for her grades, is a member of the student council and plays hockey for the Maskwacis Midget Female team. “I strive to get good marks in school to get into a good university.”

She is planning on taking science and environmental courses in university, “so I can help the land because that’s something that’s going on right now.”

Even before winning the award for being recognized as an innovative leader, Northwest spent her energy challenging stereotypes colouring First Nations people in a negative light. “I think that it’s good . . . Just a small minority of people bring the bad publicity to my community. I think winning this award has shined a lot of light on the people able to do good.”

“I think I set a good example for my peers by abstaining from drugs and alcohol,” she added.

Northwest is hoping to inspire others in her community to achieve their best by opening herself up to new opportunities and continuing to grow as a person. While she mostly focuses her leadership skills on her community, Northwest is not averse to putting in the hard work needed to positively impact the bigger region around her.

“Being a Cree person, it (culture) keeps us grounded in our identity. It’s something to be preserved,” said Northwest.

St. Augustine school councillor Tara Newton nominated Northwest for the award and in doing so was required to write a 1,000 word essay on her. “She’s just somebody that I see as such a role model for all girls but especially Indigenous people.”

“She’s just such as beautiful person, inside and out,” she added.

When Newton heard of the award she says Northwest’s name immediately came to her. “I’m just really proud of her and I’m really excited for what the future holds for her.”