RECIPIENTS OF GRANTS IN SUPPORT
OF SOCIAL JUSTICE LEARNING
Linking through Literacy Evergreen Catholic Outreach School, Spruce Grove
With support of Aspen Foundation grant funding Evergreen Outreach students were able to make 2-3 visits a month to both the Good Samaritan long-term care facility and St. Marguerite Elementary School. Students built genuine relationships and strengthened the sense of community across generations, while developing reading, writing, storytelling and leadership abilities through conversation, story based games and crafts, and a shared love of literature.
“Students have learned a great deal about being leaders and teaching...this was not an outcome they had expected, however, most are thankful for the opportunity they have had to teach.” -Faith Bodnarek, Teacher
DynaMix: Drumming for Social Justice and Diversity Crescent Valley School, Hinton
Aspen Foundation grant funding enabled the DynaMix drummers to purchase instruments, music books, and performance attire. Every week grade 4-6 students came together to create a drum circle to talk about social issues. The group tackled issues including: fair play and inclusion on our playground, treatment of women around the world, challenges of children (especially girls) in attending school, inclusion of all people, issues facing our newest Canadians (like the Syrian families in our community) and quality of life for seniors.
In addition to developing drum skills, there has been the emergence of listening skills and a deepened attitude of respect. Dyna-Mix have mastered one performance piece: an African welcoming song which encourages trust. The drummers have proudly worn their self-designed t-shirts ‘on-tour’ at seniors’ homes, neighbouring elementary schools, and for their fellow students as Crescent Valley.
“The hardest thing is working with people you know you do not work well with to come up with a beautiful piece of music.”
“Drumming can open people’s hearts.”
“I have learned to come together as a group and express myself through drumming.”
Vegreville Next Step Peace Pole Vegreville Next Step Outreach School, Vegreville
With the support of Aspen Foundation grant funding, Next Step students were able to build a mobile Peace Pole to chronicle and share their encounters with various aspects of social justice. Students took pride in posting their conscious and deliberate reflections on many activities and events in school and the wider community: after a MADD presentation, Remembrance Day ceremonies, in response to the announced closure of a large federal office in the community. Students and teachers were constantly challenged to understand what it means to live in the world as a peacemaker.
“It’s really strange. When you start thinking about social justice it’s everywhere. If a person is irresponsible about their sexual behviour, victims can be created, and that makes our sexuality a social justice issue” -Grade 11 CALM student
“When some people are pushed into positions of weakness, sometimes the only way to be strong is through an act of violence. I think that explains something of why people seem to be driven to violence against others. It’s not right, but it’s a reason, and when we know reasons we have something to work with.”
“This may mean that Canada is becoming, slowly, a safer place for my people to live.” -First Nations student
Sparling School Mentorship Program Sparling School, Camrose
Aspen Foundation grant funds were used to support the mentorship program through the creation of Mentorship Bins containing materials to encourage intergenerational conversation and connection between students and adults. With a focus on building strong, long-lasting relationships, grade five students and community mentors are paired based on shared interests, such as music or gardening, and given access to relevant materials. Many students have experienced trauma and poverty and student engagement can be low, shown in low attendance rates. But, students had a 100% attendance rate on days that mentors were expected to be at school.
“I like having a mentor because I don’t usually get someone to talk to.”
“I like to garden. I want to do more gardening with my mentor.”
Backpacks for the Homeless St. Pius X School, Edmonton
Using funds from the Aspen Foundation grant the Social Justice Team at St. Pius X was able to assist those in need of life's necessities with warmth and food during Edmonton’s harsh winter. Over the course of the school year the Social Justice Team engaged their school in Socktober (collecting over 600 pairs of socks), Charity Day, Stockings for Stollery, Backpacks for the Homeless, a dodgeball fundraising tournament, and Lunches for the Homeless.
Social Justice students took the lead in making announcements, visiting classrooms and acting as ambassadors for the activities they planned. It became a school-wide mission to complete the projects leading students to think more deeply about the misfortunes of others and realize how well off they are themselves.
“It’s sad we can’t provide them with more. The person I gave a backpack to looked really frozen. I wonder how long he’s been out here?”
“She hugged me! Wow, she really was grateful!”
Strathcona's Founding Cultures Program Strathcona High School, Edmonton
With the support of the Aspen Foundation grant, Strathcona’s Founding Cultures has been able to expand its programming through Blanket Exercise facilitation training, Amiskwaciy Winter Feast, Inner City School Holiday Party, Stories on the Hills at Fort Edmonton Park, Guided Treaty History River Valley Tour with Dr. Dwayne Donald, Indigenous Identity and Storytelling Workshop, Elder in the Making Film Screening, bannock-making, Métis Cultural Celebration, Indigenous Artisans Market and two Family Nights where over 120 people attended each Family Night event.
Strathcona's Founding Cultures Program is a cultural exchange to assist urban indigenous, marginalized, at-promise youth in building positive identities and sustainable futures through experiential-learning, cultural competency, and exposure to community-based cultural resources. Youth gain life and interpersonal skills by learning to facilitate Sharing Circles, plan events, and leading group sessions while participants gain increased cultural competency with respect to their own backgrounds as well as the backgrounds of their peers.
“...I just can't wait to help out the youth and their families. [I am] so much more excited for my future."
“I feel a sense of belonging because I have clubs and friends which make me feel welcome”
“I am happy to know there is someone at the school I can communicate with regarding any cultural needs.” -Parent of Strathcona Founding Cultures student
GLITTER Club GSA Morinville Community High School, Morinville
The Aspen Foundation grant enabled the GLITTER Club (Gays, Lesbians, Individuals, Transgender/Two-spirit Together Encouraging Recognition) to engage students and teachers on LGBTQ issues, raise awareness of their Gay-Straight Alliance, receive feedback about bullying and perceptions of LGBTQ issues in their school, and further define the direction the club will take.
GLITTER went through some growing pains while being mindful to integrate a Catholic perspective in their activities. The students learned the importance of teamwork as well as the difficulty of trying to placate various stakeholders in a matter as emotionally driven as LGBTQ issues.
Muffins for Mercy Bishop Kidd Junior High School, Calgary
With funds from their Aspen Foundation grant, Bishop Kidd students were able to build bridges with neighbouring schools and community centre by reaching out to fill a physical need for sustenance while showing empathy and care for others. Food Studies students baked, wrapped and delivered muffins and breads while Leadership option students created cards with positive messages. Students also researched local non-profits to gain a deeper understanding of issues facing their fellow Calgarians.
“Delivering the bread we made together as really great. It felt nice knowing that the students and families in our community could enjoy the food we made I had a lot of fun doing it and in the end, the feeling of knowing we helped people was great!”
“From the moment of arrival it was clear this was an offering not just of the hands, but from the heart.” -Principal, St. Kateri Tekakwitha