Congratulations to all of our 2014 HEROES of a Safe and Caring World. Read more about each of our honourees below!
Youth Impact Award | Northern Alberta: ROHAN NUTTAL
Drawing experience from various advisory roles with the Alberta Ministry of Education, first-year university student Rohan Nuttall is active in providing youth engagement analysis and solutions in Edmonton and Alberta. With a deep commitment to promoting intergenerational collaboration within the education system, Rohan is a Contributor to the Globe and Mail, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper and the Executive Director of Student Voice Initiative Canada, a federally-incorporated education consultancy focused on working with school boards to strengthen school engagement. Rohan has also volunteered for at-risk youth programs and in many other capacities in our communities.
Foremost, Rohan strives to live by the timeless words of Thomas Carlyle: “Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him.”
Rohan’s recently directed documentary on youth-homelessness, “Through My Eyes,” has received province-wide attention and acclaim. As he receives this award, Rohan would like to acknowledge the contributions of the young Edmontonians whose experiences he profiled in “Through My Eyes”: April Bullchild, David Burnstick, David Botterill, Melissa Bigstone and James Desjarlais. In Rohan’s words, “Over the past 8 months, these youth have taught me so much about the meaning of community and the necessity to build places that are safe and caring for all individuals. If possible, I would be grateful if I could dedicate this award to these youth. Their stories are the essence of a film, that I am sure you have heard plenty about, called “Through My Eyes.” We are expecting big things to follow soon after its premiere on November 17 – none of which would be remotely possible without their contributions. In my humble opinion, it is these youth who are most deserving of this award. In many ways, they have been my ‘heroes’ and I would be thrilled to see this award presented, in part, to them as well.”
Youth Impact Award | Southern Alberta: MACKENZIE MURPHY
15 year old Mackenzie Murphy from Airdrie is a passionate advocate for bullying prevention in Alberta. Driven by years of personal experience with cyber and in-person bullying and an attempt to take her own life on December 3, 2012, Mackenzie began to realize how many other Albertan and Canadian teens were suffering from bullying.
One story that struck her particularly hard was that of Jamie Hubley, a young 15 year old boy who lived in Ontario. Jamie loved to sing and Mackenzie used to watch the videos he uploaded on Youtube. When Jamie came out as gay, people attacked him for it and he died by suicide in 2011.
After hearing Jamie’s story, Mackenzie contacted Mayor Peter Brown of Airdrie, Alberta, with the proposal to create an anti-bullying bylaw in their town. While campaigning for the bylaw, Mackenzie spoke at Pink Shirt Day 2013 and joined forces with the Amanda Todd Legacy to help break the silence on the mental health impacts of bullying and raise awareness of the value of kindness and compassion.
After being mentioned in the House of Commons by Blake Richards, and attending a webcast to provide education on bullying, Mackenzie succeeding in having the Anti-Bullying Bylaw passed, and started making appearances in schools to tell her story. This year she has received an award for Social Action from Free the Children and Canadian Living, and accepted the award on stage at the WeDay in Toronto. Mackenzie continues to help other teens struggling with bullying in any way she can. Currently, she is participating in the Amanda Todd Legacy #SayItWithSnowflakes campaign that encourages mindful and respectful communication, she is working with the Kids Help Phone Alberta to help children and teens in crisis, and she is speaking at schools across Alberta and Canada to continue spreading her message.
In her own words: “I want to speak for people who can’t speak for themselves. I want people to know that just because you think you’re alone, you’re not.”
School Impact Award: FULTONVALE ELEMENTARY JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, ELK ISLAND PUBLIC SCHOOL
In August 2012, under the visionary leadership of principal Ms. MJ Nam, Fultonvale Elementary Junior High School of Elk Island Public Schools began the process of implementing restorative practices within their school community. School staff and students have embraced the philosophy and approach of restorative practices, which focus on building and sustaining positive relationships, and dealing with negative misunderstandings by repairing the harm that has been done and not casting blame.
Among other practices, Fultonvale staff have intentionally changed the language they use in the school community to promote an environment of mutual respect, and have implemented classroom and cross-graded sharing circles to strengthen relationships amongst their students.
Fultonvale has also adopted a restorative approach to conflict resolution. When a behavioural issue such as bullying occurs at Fultonvale, all of those affected and involved are included in the resolution process, and students are given the opportunity to learn how to take responsibility for their behaviours and to be directly accountable to those they have harmed. Rather than focusing on blame, guilt and punishment, Fultonvale staff help repair and strengthen relationships by encouraging students to listen, understand and reflect upon their behaviour and how they can move forward.
The first priority in Fultonvale’s School Education Plan is that “The school community is engaged in positive interpersonal relations and resolving conflicts peacefully.” Sustaining this work requires intentionality, perseverance and time, but the results are worth the effort. Since beginning their “restorative journey” just two short years ago, Principal Ms. MJ Nam has seen a “transformation” in the school culture, and in how students, teachers and other staff interact with one another.
Campus Impact Award: NICHOLAS DIAZ AND LINH LU FROM THE LANDING
Nicholas Diaz and Linh Lu are true champions for diversity, equity and inclusivity at the University of Alberta. Over the past year, Nicholas and Linh have worked hard on several initiatives to make campus a safer and more caring space. Notably, they are responsible for creating and promoting gender-neutral washrooms on campus, and are the driving force behind the opening of The Landing, a space offering support for gender and sexual minority students.
Founders Nicholas Diaz and Linh Lu began their efforts to create The Landing in summer 2013. As former co-chairs of OUTreach, the gay-straight student alliance (GSA) for the University of Alberta, Nicholas and Linh saw first-hand the struggles of many students – old and new, undergrad and graduate, domestic and international – to feel safe and accepted on campus. Fuelled by these experiences, they set out to make their campus climate more welcoming for sexual and gender minority students, and most importantly, to make safe spaces and services more visible and accessible by collaborating with the Students’ Union and other community partners. With the support of Jane Lee, Senior Manager of Services at the Students’ Union, the duo have successfully created a space that addresses the identified need for more visible supports and services for LGBTTQQPIANU+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Queer, Questioning, Pansexual, Intersex, Asexual, Non-Binary, Unlabelled and more) students on campus.
The Landing and its volunteers actively promote gender equity, host regular awareness and engagement events and advocate for the safety and acceptance of all individuals on campus. Recently, Nicholas, Linh and the rest of The Landing team were part of Washroom Awareness Week, a campaign run in partnership with OUTreach and the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMMS) to promote awareness of and access to the all-gender washrooms on campus.
Since its launch in Summer 2014, The Landing has been a safe place on campus where hundreds of students of all genders, sexualities, races, ages and experiences are welcome to drop in, learn more about available services and simply relax, meet with friends or do their homework in a welcoming and inclusive environment.
Collective Impact Award: ALBERTA MENTORING PARTNERSHIP (AMP)
The Alberta Mentoring Partnership (AMP) is a unique collaboration of community mentoring agencies, government ministries, schools and youth with a mandate to increase access to mentoring for the children and youth of Alberta. AMP is co-chaired by Alberta Education (currently represented by Marni Pearce, Director), Alberta Human Services (currently represented by Ken Dropko, Executive Director) and Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton and Area (currently represented by Liz O’Neill, Executive Director).
Created in 2008, AMP works with agencies and organizations across the province to establish or enhance mentoring programs in their local communities. Specifically, AMP offers mentoring organizations access to effective practice, sound research and tools and resources that enhance their expertise and strengthen their mentoring programs, in order to better meet the needs of children and youth in Alberta.
The presence and positive engagement of parents and other caring adults, such as mentors, will always have a profound impact on children and youth well-being. Through their support of mentoring, AMP strives to help improve peer and family relationships, and help Alberta’s youth develop the confidence, self-esteem and social skills they need to be healthy and engaged members of society. AMP’s model of collective action and their support of the recent #8000mentors campaign has raised awareness of the value of mentorship for supporting at-risk children and youth and building safe and caring schools and communities.
A vision is achieved by working together. AMP demonstrates this everyday with community and government leaders working side-by-side to coordinate efforts to ensure that “every child or youth who needs a mentor has access to a mentor.”
Provincial Impact Award: THE HONOURABLE DONALD S. ETHELL, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF ALBERTA AND FOUNDER OF THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’S CIRCLE ON MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTION
His Honour, Col. (Ret’d) the Honourable Donald S. Ethell was installed as the 17th Lieutenant Governor of Alberta on May 11, 2010. His Vice Regal duties follow a long and distinguished career in the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as civilian service as a military advisor and volunteer for humanitarian causes. During his career, he was known for his dedication, personal strength and exceptional leadership.
Following his retirement, His Honour deepened his focus on humanitarian causes, including extensive development work through CARE and the International Committee for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering (ICROSS) Canada. His Honour is also a member of Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian Forces Advisory Council, Canadian Association of Veterans of United Nations Peacekeepers, the Gulf War Veterans Association of Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion and the ANAVETS.
Throughout his many achievements, His Honour spent much of his life struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as with the depression, anxiety and mood changes that come along with it. Having worked long and hard on his own recovery, His Honour has dedicated himself to reducing the stigma of mental illness and helping others in pain. He has chaired various projects focused on strengthening mental health supports for members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP. When he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, His Honour partnered with other passionate mental health advocates and experts to form the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction.
The Lieutenant Governor’s Circle began as a group of like-minded people sharing ideas and information. It has since evolved into a not-for-profit organization that will continue on past His Honour’s term. The Circle’s mandate is to increase public awareness and reduce stigma related to mental illness and addiction through free public awareness events, media outreach and the Lieutenant Governor’s True Awards, which celebrate individuals, organizations and initiatives that exemplify excellence in mental health recovery, advocacy, education and service delivery.
His Honour’s catchphrase is “you are not alone,” and he honestly wants that to be true for every child, youth and adult in Alberta.