Submitted by KEVIN L. BUFFALO
Junior high students from Meskanahk Ka Nipa Wit (Montana School) in Hobbema were the recipients recently of the Edmonton YMCA Peace Medal. The students were nominated for the award for their active participation towards promoting peace, culture and honor within their school. The Montana students were part of the YMCA Youth Exchange program in May and June.
Upon learning of the program, the junior high staff at the Montana School applied for the students to be able to travel on this youth exchange. The 34 students were able to travel to Ottawa for six days. The students had to fund raise and earn money for their trip.
While in Ottawa, the students visited Parliament, the Museum of Man, the Royal Canadian Mint and they were able to have a tour of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). In addition to tours and learning about technology, they went to the YMCA camp to participate in rock and rope climbing, orienteering and balancing on beams. The trip included a five-hour flight and the students, many of whom had not flown on a plane before, were anxious and excited.
Through the youth exchange, the students were able to become more aware of the diversity in other cultures. The 29 students and five chaperones were honored by their guests from the Elizabeth Park School and were provided with accommodations at the Carleton University in Ottawa. Once the Montana students returned home, they prepared to be “hosts” for those students who came to visit in June.
Part of receiving the award was to promote peace and well-being within the community and to offer the same to guests when they arrived. Meskanahk Ka Nipa Wit School had to give examples of how the community has shaped and offered a new direction of hope and kinship.
Since negative publicity of the Four Nations is often portrayed in Hobbema, the school had to send positive messages about its community and sell the idea to the partner group. Upon completion of their first exchange, the Montana School students gained information and made new friendships with people from another part of Canada. For the Montana School to receive this award was an honor and added bonus. This has brought a sense of pride and belonging within the school and community.
In 2011, the Grade 7 students from Montana School have been selected to again participate with the YMCA Youth Exchange Program. They will be flying to Victoria to spend one week at the Maaqstiis First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The school is looking for donations to assist with fundraising.
Any schools who wish to be a part of the YMCA Youth Exchange program can apply on-line or contact Zoe Rezac in Edmonton at 780-429-5734 or toll free: 1-866-920- 9622.