Seeds have been planted at Mamawi Atosketan Native School (MANS) intended to bring long term benefits to First Nations students.
A special groundbreaking ceremony was held at MANS Wednesday, May 25 at the site of the school’s soon to be constructed junior and senior high school. The groundbreaking is just one part of an overall goal called the Bridge Campaign. In it, the school hopes to develop special labs and workshops that will give students a variety of skills before graduating.
The school, located within Ponoka county territory but outside Maskwacis reserves, also seeks to grow its busing program, create scholarships and bursaries, a nutrition program and after-school programs. Completing the project is estimated at $4.9 million, with the majority of the funds — $4.1 million — going to the building of the school.
There were several guests at the groundbreaking ceremony, each of whom had something to add to the day. Samuel Minde, president and CEO of the Neyaskweyahk Group of Companies, said he is a proud parent of four children, two of whom go to MANS.
He told attendees that he chose MANS because it continues with a strong First Nations culture and brings teachings on Christianity. He praised staff and teachers for their dedication to the students.
Larry Wilkins, the founding donor and honourary campaign chairperson, said he is grateful to see the fruits of their labour at the groundbreaking ceremony. The school’s dream to create a new building is on its way to completion. “It’s been a long time coming.”
He feels once the building is ready, the future of First Nations students will look brighter than ever. One of the elements of the new school will be a new industrial learning centre. Working with the school on the plans is the Canadian Welding Association.
Andrew Bartlett, technical outreach officer with the association, suggests there is an untapped workforce in First Nations people and the program will not only increase safety awareness but grow the industrial arts program at MANS.
Lynn McDowell, MANS campaign manager, said the school expects continued growth in the next few years. With the installment of two portable classrooms at the school, there are 200 students this year.
Construction is expected to start this month with completion set for approximately 18 months from now.