Guest Post by: Nancy Metcalf, Jasper Place High School
High school can be a place where students just want to fit in. To let differences be known and access the strength that comes from our differences can feel risky and unsafe. The guardedness that results leads to feelings of isolation and being unable to find our true commonalities. At Edmonton’s Jasper Place High School, through Celebrating Aboriginal Culture and supporting First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) students, the school has uncovered strong youth leaders, common values and affirmation that differences are not to be hidden but celebrated.
On May 1st, The Leading Spirits hosted a pow wow round dance. Students of many cultures from elementary, junior high and high schools shared the experience of holding hands and dancing together. They learned about aboriginal culture, values, and beliefs from their peers and elders. Our common bond to the earth that nurtures us and common experience of our mother’s heart beat in the womb and the beat of the drum united us. The Leading Spirits is one of the key student groups that sit on the school’s STAR program’s advisory committee and welcomes all students, regardless of their cultural heritage, to join their group.
The surplus of confidence and belonging that exists in the Leading Spirits has led, naturally , to reaching out to help all students in Japer Place belong and benefit from aboriginal culture. The Leading Spirits have shared their surplus in many ways throughout the year. The Day of Pink was hosted by students from the Gay Straight Alliance and the Leading Spirits. Students who took a stand with the GSA and Leading Spirits, against intolerance and bullying by wearing pink were rewarded with a package to make a s’more with the message “we need s’more people like you.” The Global Café, a student led, enrichment club, collaborated with the Leading Spirits in an aboriginal movie night. The Leading Spirits have a fun engaging station to promote mental health at the annual mental health fair. Leading Spirit members also welcomed grade 9s transitioning to Jasper Place by making beaded key chains with them in the leadership sessions. Aboriginal motivational speakers have inspired all students and thanks to the Leading Spirits of the past, students can take Aboriginal Studies at Jasper Place. Jasper Place strives to be a school where differences do not mean exclusion and isolation. The Leading Spirits are proof that, when supported, diversity can mean strength and an opportunity to create connection and enrich school culture.