On December 17th, 2014, the ‘Keep On Learning Foundation Of Alberta’ hosted its second event at the Nipisihkopahk High School in Maskwacis. Our speakers were Beverly Crier, a historian with a desire for culture and language preservation, who helped develop Samson Bands first Cree language app, is involved in numerous cultural projects and runs the Museum and archives at Maskwacis. The second speaker was Bert Crowfoot, producer of Canada’s first indigenous newspaper and is now the founder and CEO of the Aboriginal Multimedia Society of Alberta, Canada’s largest publisher of Indigenous news, owning five newspapers. This ambitious and talented man also established Alberta’s first Aboriginal radio station, CRWE-FM, and is a journalist, photographer and producer. Both speakers have a passion for lifelong learning, and shared with the students the importance of education, determination, and having goals.
For those of you who wish to know more about what the foundation is about, what our goals and our vision are, I wanted to take this time to share it with you. The aim of the ‘Keep On Learning Foundation’ is to keep the youth inspired by bringing in some of the best leaders in the Aboriginal community, as well as people that have a passion for Aboriginal issues. Our speakers come to the school, on a voluntary basis, at the beginning and at the end of every semester, to keep the students motivated and excited about learning. The goal is to run the program for four years, while measuring the rate of success (Is there a lower dropout rate? How many students go on to achieve higher learning? etc.)
It is important for the younger generation to have people to look up to and to aspire to be like. We started with Aboriginal speakers because we know that Aboriginal people have been through the same struggles nationwide and would be able to relate to each other, especially the youth. A person who faces many trials and is able to go through and overcome them when the odds are not in their favor, usually end up with a pretty good story to share. And these stories have a great impact on the lives of the youth that may be dealing with some of the same issues and going through tough times. Stories with a powerful message and words that uplift can help to shape the way one perceives a situation. We may be connected by the struggles we face as aboriginal people, but it is our desire to be able to connect on a higher level, one of perseverance and greater achievement, and to establish a new normal for the next generation where they can look up to the leaders and see that our people are resilient, and not simply products of their environment but overcomers, individuals with strong minds and strong wills.
The underlying message we share with our youth is this: Every experience we face is an opportunity to learn and to come out better than we were before. We can learn from the success as well as the mistakes of others. With the right attitude, the attitude of success or that of a warrior, one can go through anything and come out stronger or more equipped for the next battle. We encourage the teaching of values such as the importance of living with a purpose, having a community mindset, and a desire to give back and see the betterment of our people and society as a whole. Our foundation is not just about academic learning; it’s about learning in every aspect and stage of life. It includes teachings from our rich culture and heritage, learning from our history, and gaining traditional knowledge from our elders, while finding a balance between adapting to the changes of society.
For us, the Maskwacis high school is the perfect platform to do what we do. We want to let the youth, the future leaders, know that we care about them, believe in them, and want them to succeed. There are four nations of people that attend – Samson, Louis Bull, Ermineskin, and Montana – so the reach is far. This is just a start for the ‘Keep On Learning Foundation’, and I am looking forward to see how we grow.