The idea for ‘Still I Rise’ initially came to be in December 2020, when an insightful EAS team member working primarily in the Treaty 8 region recognized the need for Indigenous youth to receive messages of hope, perseverance and resilience in a time of uncertainty. From there the concept of a free virtual student event was born. This event set out to offer messages of inspiration from Indigenous influencers and friends from our Ever Active Schools community.
The initial measure of success was to be able to share these messages with at least 100 students. Through marketing and promotion within our Ever Active Schools networks, and thanks to members of our Resilient Schools Network, we far surpassed our original goal, reaching more than 1,000 students from all over Alberta. The first ‘Still I Rise’ event was hosted on January 25, 2021 and was a great day with many inspiring sessions.
Our team knew that we had started something great. For the 2021/2022 school year, Ever Active Schools built on this legacy by hosting two more virtual youth events: Still I Rise: Empower and Inspire, hosted on November 24, 2021, and Still I Rise: Celebrate & Share on May 26, 2022.
The fall offering of ‘Still I Rise: Empower & Inspire’ offered free virtual presentations for youth, and it impacted over 1,800 students.
Growing on the success of part one, our most recent presenters were all Indigenous – in fact, many were alumni youth from the schools and communities in attendance! The event supported the following themes:
- Connecting to cultural knowledge
- Physical activity through sport and active living
- Arts and expression
- Celebrating and sharing student voice
The final attendance tally for Still I Rise: Celebrate & Share was 784 students and 54 teachers and school staff, representing a total of 28 schools.
Two of our Resilient Schools Health and Wellness Consultants, Melissa and Andrea, welcomed everyone to kick off the day. This was followed by an opening blessing from Ever Active School’s Elder in Residence, Elder Flora Northwest, who spoke of hope and resilience and welcomed the youth to the virtual space. Each unique school community was welcomed individually and unmuted their microphones to cheer into the online event! We heard opening remarks from our event sponsor, Alberta Blue Cross. This event is also generously supported by Catapult Canada through the Rideau Hall Foundation.
Following the opening, the event moved into presenter sessions. Lance Cardinal shared traditional teachings in a fun and engaging art session, creating an eagle craft. Sheena Kaine shared how physical activity can help you navigate tough times in your life and how having a dedicated personal routine can improve your mental health. Kendra Rosychuk shared a powerful message of the importance of sport for Indigenous peoples since time immemorial and the impact Indigenous innovators and athletes have had on the creation of the most popular sports today. She encouraged youth to feel proud of their Indigenous identity and stay active knowing it is in their blood. Finally, Darrel Brertton Jr. gave an inspiring keynote on the power of a positive mindset, goal setting and taking specific action to reach your goals.
Throughout the day we also showcased videos submitted by participating students. These videos were centred around the question, “what are you most proud of at your school?” Videos were submitted by:
- Maskēkosak Kinskinomātowamik (Kitaskinaw School Enoch)
- Montreal Lake School
- Kehewin School
- Beaver Lake – Amisk Community School
- Montana Meskanahk Ka-Nipa-Wit School
- Atikameg School
It was such a joy to see the students speak with pride about their schools. We look forward to even more student content in future events!
Still I Rise: Celebrate and Share was a success and well-attended by our school communities. This event gives an opportunity for youth to connect with other youth all over the province. To close, we wanted to share a quote from one of our participants during the day: “I fall, I fail, I stumble, but still I rise!”