With the withdrawal of incumbent Richard Elliott it is a given that Joyce Cooper, a member of the Redstone Band, will be elected by acclamation to the Zone 7 (Chilcotin Areas J/K) seat on the School District 27 board.
Cooper believes her work and previous political experience will serve her well as a trustee.
Cooper says she also knows many First Nations and non-First Nations people in the region and believes in openness, transparency, listening to people’s concerns, and making decisions “from the ground up.”
Cooper and her husband, Gene, forestry liaison for the Tsilhqot’in National Government for 18 years, have three children.
For eight years Cooper served on the Alexis Creek band council, including three years each on the economic development committee and Aboriginal Interior Health Committee.
She also met and worked with many people in the region while serving as the band representative on the Tatla Resource Committee.
For five years until this June Cooper worked as the aboriginal family group conferencing co-ordinator for Denisiqui Family Services, a role she says gave her greater insight into the challenges faced by rural students.
Having been a residential school survivor herself, and having three children raised in the Chilcotin go through the public school system, Cooper says she understands the challenges of rural students, such as missing their families, peer pressure and learning about city life.
After their eldest son experienced problems and went on to finish high school in Kamloops, Cooper says they moved their family to 150 Mile House to be there for their two daughters as they finished school.
“Whether they are First Nations or non-First Nations students there will be a culture shock,” says Cooper.
“There is a real diverse group of students in Zone 7, but all of the parents deal with the same influences when our kids hit the city setting.”
She says strong supports are needed to help rural students make the transition to city living and parents need to be made more aware of what supports are available.
“We need to take a look at what is best for the students,” Cooper says. Cooper says she also sees huge gaps which need to be closed between the education provided at federal schools and education provided at public schools.