Dsbn appleby project the standard

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Ray Pidzamecky M.S.W. RSW says “Youth of today are the promise of the future and represent a tremendous untapped resource. They are energetic, positive and are extremely well positioned to support others in their peer groups. Through inexpensive and purposeful training, young people themselves can provide an effective and efficient resource to one another and support caregivers responsible for the well-being of today’s youth.”

Contact Person:


Raymond Pidzamecky (905) 466-0444 raypidzamecky@gmail.com

Primary Goals:

 To create a youth-oriented programme which:

1) engages the participants in a First Nation’s culturally rich experience;
2) trains participants with valuable skills for supporting other youth;
3) exposes youth to the wisdom of the Elders who are valuable resources;
4) provides youth with supports for social issues faced within their community;
5) creates a long-term youth-oriented program providing non-athletic options.

 To create a program, which the community sees as a positive and supportive agenda, benefitting the community through the involvement of youth.
 To train the adult leadership for on-going training and support of the students in the program.
 To build a common or shared set of peer skills between Elders and youth.

Published in: Education, Health & Medicine
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Dsbn appleby project the standard

  1. 1. Fort Erie SUBSCRIBE MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2009 Local News Native, non-native students bond at retreat Native, non-native students bond at retreat Posted By TIFFANY MAYER Larissa Leonard did something unusual last week. The teen decided to forgo frittering away her Friday night on her computer or shopping with friends. Instead, she went out for coffee with her mother, spending hours talking about every detail of her week. “Normally, I’m all Facebook and friends and mall and Starbucks,” the Grade 11 Eden High School student said. Jillian Isaacs’ week threw her a bit of a curve ball, too. The teen, a member of the Mohawk Nation, Bear clan, was forced to confront a past she never lived, but one that has always haunted her. “That feeling never goes away,” Isaacs said through tears. “It gets passed down. When I have kids, they probably won’t know why they feel this way.” Isaacs is mourning the century of cultural genocide her ancestors endured in Canadian residential schools. But the Grade 11 Fort Erie Secondary School student is also healing. The changes in both teens could never have occurred here in Niagara with all the distractions of urban life, they said. Instead, Leonard and Isaacs, joined by 10 other District School Board of Niagara high school students, travelled more than 500 kilometres earlier this month to Rabbitnose Island on Lake Temagami to get in touch with themselves and each other with the help of their teachers and local native elder Judy Doxtator. It was a four-day peer counselling project for aboriginal and non-aboriginal students, including four from Oakville’s Appleby College, in partnership with the Niagara Native Restorative Circle. The point was to teach students teamwork skills, environmental responsibility and instill in them a sense of accomplishment and leadership, all in a classroom important to aboriginal teachings: the land. “We have a large population of youth with aboriginal heritage, and from our experience, because of the demographics of the community, it’s important to teach youth to walk in both worlds,” said Ray Pidzamecky, a school board social worker who organized the trip. Given that aboriginal youths are at a higher risk for suicide, mental-health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and the majority are unlikely to finish high school, Jennifer Dockstader, a board re-engagement counsellor with an aboriginal specialization, said it’s important to give their peers the tools to support them. “When youth have problems, they go to other to youth,” Dockstader said.
  2. 2. The students, from Fort Erie, Eden/Lakeport and St. Catharines Collegiate, noticed a change in themselves as soon as they arrived on Rabbitnose Island. After a frigid snowmobile trip across Lake Temagami, rather than retreat to their cabins and cellphones — it was virtually impossible to get a signal — they spent their first night learning each other’s names. They stayed up late talking about religion. Over the next few days, they worked together hauling firewood and water for showers. They were handed journals to chronicle their thoughts and feelings. The learned active listening skills and a catchy acronym, FELORI, to help them remember the traits of effective communication: face, eye contact, lean in, open posture, relaxed, interested. They acted out scenarios to learn and teach how to make decisions. They mastered the art saying “I feel” instead of “You did” when talking out problems. They played games that required them to trust each other. What they learned was emotional intelligence, Pidzamecky said. They also dealt with some heavy topics that are part of the aboriginal experience. They watched a documentary about the effects of residential schools on Canada’s natives. There were tears. Shame from the non-aboriginal contingent. “I didn’t feel worthy being in the same room as them,” said Lee van Brussel, a Grade 11 Fort Erie student. “I honestly felt sick.... I left the room because I didn’t know how to feel.” Then came empathy. Understanding. And from it, a mutual respect and equality. They used drumming, smudging and singing to help them process what they saw. No one slept afterward. They stayed up until 3 a.m., talking and trying to make sense of a history none personally had a role in writing. They grieved together to start healing together. Student Jamie McGean corralled everyone into a bear hug for comfort. They felt the profoundness of human connections. “The way it affected the non-aboriginal students, they were grieving for us,” said McGean, a Grade 12 Collegiate student, who is a member of the Mohawk Nation, Bear clan. The bonds that had already formed, solidified, Isaacs said. “It was nice because we all respected each other, each other’s beliefs and religion. There was no disapproval. We were all equal,” she said. For Leonard, who is Ojibway, she finally got to know her grandmother, who was forced to go to a residential school. “She never wanted to talk about it. Now I know why, which is good.” The teens and their teachers are certain they would never have learned and felt what they did on Rabbitnose Island had they not been “unplugged” from the trappings of their lives in Niagara. “It makes you wonder if school is the primary learning environment we should be in,” van Brussel said. “It’s a huge, life-impacting scenario. It changes the way you think. It gives a new outlook on life and respect for people.... It’s trying to find ways to better myself in every aspect.” Pidzamecky is certain that “if we could take every student back to the land, we could give them growth.”
  3. 3. But the adults in the group also experienced a transformation. “There have been a lot of things done in the name of God that aren’t God,” said Drew Unruh, spiritual life director at Eden. “I think Christians have flown some negative flags in the past. Residential schools are one of them.... (They) are an embarrassment to the church. “To be able to work through this stuff ... is a big shift forward ... an extreme shift forward by the District School Board of Niagara.” A presentation to the community about the group’s experience is planned for May 20 at 7 p.m. at St. Catharines Collegiate. Meanwhile, they will reconnect to decide how to implement their new skills and perspectives at school. The students are eager to be the leaders they learned to be. “I feel I can be a role model for future generations,” Isaacs said. “I can be more positive and helpful.” Article ID# 1535632

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