After years of hard work and dedication, the Mamawi Atosketan Native School (MANS) can now pride itself as a Kindergarten to Grade 12 school, with its first class of Grade 12 students graduating later this spring.
On Saturday, April 25, students, community members and supporters of MANS filled the school’s gymnasium for a Milestone Celebration and Open House to celebrate all the school has accomplished in its 12 years of existence at its current off reserve location.
“By carrying students from Kindergarten through to the completion of Grade 12, the school can also provide direction to students for college and higher education opportunities,” said principal Gail Wilton in a press release.
Across Canada, the completion rate of First Nations students who enroll in high school is 39 per cent, states the press release.
With its sole focus on education for First Nations youth, the school will see a 100 per cent completion rate with its first year of Grade 12 students.
A recently completed addition to the school building was also celebrated during the open house ceremony; donations of labour from Ron Grue, Camrose Rotarian, and a Calgary contractor, William Piersanti, aided its completion.
It is the new space that allowed the school to add a Grade 12 to its roster.
Over the last 12 years, MANS has transformed from a one-room school with 17 students to a full-fledged Kindergarten to Grade 12 institution.
“You do your little bit and wonder whether you make any difference. (It’s) like tossing a marble into a pond,” said Sandra Kiehlbach Toms, who was the founding teacher/principal of the school at its first location on the reserve in 1985.
“But when many people toss in their marble, look what it can become,” she added.
The school is underwritten by the Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and began adding high school classes one grade at a time during the 2012-2013 school year.
During the ceremony, three beaded medallions were given to developer/contractors Alfred Breikreuz of Ponoka and Ken Taylor of Camrose, Lacombe resident Elizabeth Tym as representative of deceased founding donor Mary Krysowaty and Kiehlbach Toms as thanks for their dedication to the school.
MANS first Grade 12 graduating class is being honored in a graduation ceremony to be held Thursday, May 21 at the school, 7 p.m.