Ceremonial drummer Gary Stieman (left) conducts the cleansing ceremony for incoming First Nations role models James Evans and Kasey Stirling as they are guided in the tradition by outgoing role models Damion Alphonse and Talia Baptiste.

Ceremonial drummer Gary Stieman (left) conducts the cleansing ceremony for incoming First Nations role models James Evans and Kasey Stirling as they are guided in the tradition by outgoing role models Damion Alphonse and Talia Baptiste.

First Nations youth role models celebrated

Eleven First Nations youth were recognized Tuesday evening as School District 27 role models for their fellow students.

Eleven First Nations youth were recognized Tuesday evening as School District 27 role models for their fellow students and in their communities.

After an official welcome and prayers in First Nations languages and English, this year’s First Nations Role Model candidates were escorted in a circle around the Williams Lake Secondary gymnasium by a parent or someone close to them as the outgoing 2011/12 role models, Talia Baptiste and Damion Alphonse read their nomination letters.

Although only one boy and one girl would be crowned as the 2012-13 Role Model of the year, moderator Joan Gentles, First Nations district instructor, noted that every one of the nominees is a role model in their own right.

The two young people chosen as the leading First Nations role models this year are well known in the community for different reasons.

Kasey Stirling is a Grade 11 honour roll student in the French Immersion program at Columneetza secondary and an award-winning fiddler who can be seen playing with youth fiddle groups in many venues around the city.

James Evans is a Grade 11 honour roll student at Williams Lake secondary and a star participant in the B.C. High School Rodeo Association and British Columbia Rodeo Association competitions.

Kasey and James, along with all of the other role model candidates also demonstrate commitment to their school and community, leadership qualities, a healthy lifestyle and support for their First Nations culture.

During the dedication ceremony Kasey and James were guided through the cleansing and introduction ceremonies by the outgoing role models who crowned their successors.  They were each presented with $500 bursaries and a blanket. Joan Gentles also presented Kasey and James each with an eagle feather which were very special to her.

Recognizing their status as ongoing role models all of the nominees including Daisha Leon, Holly Stirling, Michelle Billyboy, Mountain Lake Alphonse, Norma Sue Handsor, Rae Alphonse, Raima Sill, Shyanne Quilt and Wendel William were presented with jackets.

Following the induction ceremonies a dinner was served.

Gentles explained that a team of 14 judges were assigned to go through the nomination packages and mark the various categories. The district’s First Nations department tallies up the marks and keeps the results secret until the role model celebration.

Dignitaries attending the event included teachers, principals, counsellors, representatives from the city and school board and various band chiefs and counsellors and drummer Gary Stieman.

The majority of the School District 27 board members attended the event but had to leave early to attend a board meeting the same evening.

Posters and bookmarks highlighting the role model achievements will be sent to schools in the district as well as band offices and city hall.