Students and staff at Ponoka Outreach School are gearing up for the year-end wrap-up after another great year with fantastic people working together to find success.
This year has been incredible for all the students. The Outreach has so many opportunities for students looking for a highly effective alternative to traditional schools. Students and staff enjoyed great success academically, and they also had some excellent special events and new programs.
Ian Tisdale, principal, is very positive about this school year, especially our new option programs, student progress reports and all the great celebrations through the year. In particular, Mr. Tisdale is pleased with the progress made by students which have resulted in higher graduation rates for our school.
The school organized many events this year, including field trips, opportunities to volunteer, a talent show, Minute to Win It, as well as a Nitohtahwin Gathering, a Cree feast, and other food-related events.
New programs at the Outreach include literacy block, drama, yoga, and photography. All of these new programs have been a huge hit with the students.
Field trips this year have been excellent. Mainly field trips focused on taking students to visit post-secondary schools such as Grant MacEwan, Red Deer College, and Skills Canada.
“I liked the trip to Red Deer College,” stated Emily Rogers, Grade 12 student. “Because we got to see programs for a variety of careers. It was great because we got to expand our knowledge of what’s out there for jobs.”
Volunteerism is a big part of school at the Outreach. This last fall, students enjoyed raking lawns of elderly people around Ponoka. Tical Rowan, Grade 10, was one of our student volunteers: “I think it was a privilege to help an elder of our community. I get real feeling of pride when I help out other people.”
The talent show was held in our school and was a good event for all the students, which featured a variety of performances.
Emily Rogers performed a song: “I enjoy performing whenever I get a chance. It was fun to perform in the latest talent show. It was exciting to get in front of an audience knowing they are there to see you. I think these sort of events are great because you get to know everyone better.”
Mr. Tisdale also thinks that events such as the talent show are important: “It was awesome seeing the talent and giftedness of our students.”
This year’s show included performances such as singing, face shaving, guitar, techno music and photography shots.
Another fun event was this year’s Minute to Win It. This hilarious competition was fun and very intense. Teams compete by trying to complete a 60-second activity that was almost always really difficult and really funny to watch.
Dianne Wilkinson, educational assistant, stated, “Events like this are for building school spirit and bringing the students closer together. It also gives students a chance to get out in front of an audience and to be more comfortable in those situations.”
“It’s a fun day for both staff and students,” stated Mr. Tisdale.
The leadership photography program is new to Ponoka Outreach. Although we’ve had photography in the past, our new program is bigger and better than ever. We take shots of the Indigenous elders from our own communities for a project called “Honouring Our Elders”.
Taking pictures of our elders is more of a central project. The portraits are on display in the front lobby of our school. We have also photographed Cree artifacts.
Our current big project is the ‘REDress Project’ which is intended to bring greater awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women. We also focus on portraiture using studio lighting. We edit photos to turn simple photos into quality portraits that we display all over the school. We can take any simple picture and we can turn it into a fine art picture by using Adobe Photoshop.
Jim Wilkinson is the teacher who runs the leadership photography program. “This project has been a tremendous success,” stated Mr. Wilkinson. “It’s been a great opportunity for students to discover that they have a lot of artistic talent. For many in the program, it has really helped them find the motivation to come to school. It’s been great!”
Daleena Soosay-Samson is one of our more talented photographers: “I like photography a lot. It’s my favourite class. I like taking great shots with our great equipment.”
“I like working with the equipment,” stated Jamie Brown. Jamie has been in the project since the beginning. “I like that we can take pictures with the class and have a good time. It motivates me to come to school.”
Our principal is a big fan of our photography program and feels that it is important due to, “the fact that students are having an opportunity to engage in a high quality program, and I love the results.”
Another new program is our literacy block. The literacy block is a challenge for students. The teachers teach reading, but the idea of regularly scheduled reading is to improve literacy skills for all students.
“I think literacy is really important,” stated Karma Threefingers. “Reading and writing are essential in all the courses in high school. Literacy Block helps a lot.”
Mr. Tisdale believes very strongly in the value of a literacy program. Many of the teachers have developed a variety of approaches to literacy for the students. “I like the variety of the programs available.”
Shelia Strychalski is our drama teacher: “The program has been a lot of fun and we’ve done projects like masks, makeup, scenes and acting.”
Its benefited the students as it gives them an opportunity to be fun and silly in a safe environment. This builds their confidence to be able to perform in public
“I love drama because I like acting,” stated Kalli Louis-Johnson, Grade 12. “We get to write scripts, memorize them and act them out in front of the class. I like drama because it makes me feel more confident.”
Yoga is another very popular new program here at the Outreach. Erin Freadrich, assistant principal, is our yoga teacher. She loves teaching yoga: “It’s been incredible and successful. It’s been a powerful experience to see the growth of the students in the program and how they are better to come into the program.”