By: Barbara Webb
Aboriginal youth in Calgary had a rare opportunity to hear from three inspiring Canadians last Saturday, in an event intended to give the youth renewed hope for their future. The event speakers, Sen. Patrick Brazeau, Dr. Alika LaFontaine, and Ashley Callingbull, shared their “wisdom stories” – accounts of their paths through adversity towards success. Lori Pritchard, Principal of Piitoayis Family School, Calgary, said the children she brought to the event learned that they can do anything if they work hard.
“In a class discussion one child told me, ‘We all have our own stories and they are important,’” she said.
“Aboriginal Youth Leading Change” was held at Mount Royal University in collaboration between Bridges Social Development and the LaVie Society. Donna Kennedy-Glans, founder and executive director of Bridges Social Development, said the focus was to help motivate and inspire aboriginal youth to realize their potential.
Ashley Callingbull, a 20-year-old Native Cree, represented Canada and was second runner-up in the 2010 Miss Universe pageant.
“I’ve lived a traumatic childhood of abuse,” she said. “Now I want to help kids who may be going through something similar by letting them know there is always hope if they don’t give up on themselves. I enjoy mentoring and teaching children to be everything they can be.”
Sixteen-year-old Jasmine Good Strider said that Callingbull’s story inspired her. A student in Grade 11, Jasmine said she enjoys painting and body art. She was glad to learn that there were “aboriginal people who made it out there.”
Another speaker, Lafontaine, a 27-year-old Metis physician, earned a 2008 Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister award. He said he takes a passionate interest in breaking the boundaries that surround aboriginal youth in today’s society and was thus very pleased with the outcome of Saturday’s youth event.