Ponoka’s Mylee Yellowbird, Grade 6, is to be awarded the Honouring Spirit: Indigenous Student Awards for her leadership at Ponoka Elementary School and for passing on her Cree knowledge to younger students. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Ponoka student’s leadership earns Indigenous Student Award

Ponoka’s Mylee Yellowbird is to receive her award in Edmonton on May 12

Exceptional leadership by Ponoka Elementary School (PES) student Mylee Yellowbird (Grade 6) has landed her the Honouring Spirit: Indigenous Student Awards for Grades 4 to 6 in the central zone.

Yellowbird was nominated by Courtney Chance Skjonsberg, her Grade 6 teacher and FNMI lead teacher at PES. She is to receive the award on May 12 in Edmonton.

While Yellowbird is shy and quite humble, it’s her involvement with other students that shows just the kind of leader she is. Along with bringing in her regalia that she dances with at pow wows, Yellowbird reads to younger Cree students in the school.

It’s all about compassion and embracing her cultural identity, explains Chance Skjonsberg in her nomination letter. “She absolutely loves to dance, mainly Junior Girls Traditional. She has performed at our own school.”

Not only is she active as a proud Cree youth, Yellowbird is big into basketball, playing on her school’s team, plus she plays piano and does gymnastics. She was also recognized during the recent Ponoka Leaders of Tomorrow awards ceremony.

In talking with Yellowbird, hearing she won was a shock. “I got a lot of congratulations.”

Celebrating the Cree culture is important to Yellowbird who says everyone in her family dances. When she dances — Yellowbird does a traditional dance — it reminds her of family members who have since died.

Chance Skjonsberg said Yellowbird really set the stage as a leader when she did a presentation in September related to celebrating diversity. “She wanted everyone to respect that we’re all different. We’re all unique and to treat each other equally and fair.”

Yellowbird is a lunch and reading-buddy for younger students. “Mylee goes every single day for 10 to 15 minutes to read with this child so they’re exposed to more reading,” said Chance Skjonsberg.

On top of that, Yellowbird met with Grade 4 students to speak about the importance of her long hair.

Her family is immersed in the Maskwacis community and Yellowbird has family members who were chiefs and councillors; it’s a legacy Yellowbird hopes to continue.

For Shelagh Hagemann, FNMI student success coordinator at Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS), Yellowbird is a person who’s always thinking of ways to make the school better. “Mylee is a strong, silent leader.”

“She has gone across (schools at) WCPS and actually showcased her (dancing) skills and her talent, and with that her culture,” added Hagemann.

She said that while Yellowbird tends to shy away from attention, her story is worth telling. “She’s a shining star.”

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