New High School Opens for Mamawi Atosketan Students
The air was electric on September 28 as more than 300 friends of MANS, including Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback, Wetaskiwin-Camrose NDP MLA Bruce Hinkley, and Dr. Curtis Clarke, Deputy Minister of Alberta Education, came together with local church administrators and many executive members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church from Alberta and Canada. The reason? To celebrate the completion of the new buildings and opening of the new high school campus.
Grade 11 Honour Student Shaneek cuts the ribbon flanked by (L to R) Deputy Minister, Alberta Education Dr. Curtis Clarke; Chief Vernon Saddleback, Samson Cree Nation; Principal Gail Wilton; Honourary Campaign Chair Larry Wilkins; President of the Alberta Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church Gary Hodder. Photo: Dean Ward, Highview Photo
With a new junior and senior high school campus, MANS now offers Kindergarten to Grade 12 education for up to 320 students. The Bridge Campaign raised over $4.9 million to build the new facilities and establish supporting programs for students, with the goal of making high school graduation and post-secondary education a reality for the Cree youth of Maskwacis.
The high school building is outfitted with a modern gymnasium, classrooms, band room, kitchen, library and media room, and the Ptarmigan Cree Cultural Centre—named for major donor, the Ptarmigan Foundation—honours the value and importance of Maskwacis Cree Culture. The second building on the high school's campus is the Leon Ingraham Industrial Arts Centre, named after the former Grande Prairie industrial arts teacher and principal. The Industrial Arts Centre houses skilled trades programs, including welding, and includes shops sponsored by The Ptarmigan Foundation and Bird Construction and the CWB Welding Foundation.
For many years, MANS was bursting at the seams. Now the school has room to grow. After years of extensive planning, dreaming, building and hard work, the Grand Opening was a time to celebrate and reflect on how far Mamawi has come.
With over 300 guests in the new gymnasium, anticipation and enthusiasm filled the air as Grade 11 Honour Student Shaneek cut the ribbon. She was flanked by Deputy Minister, Alberta Education Dr. Curtis Clarke; Chief Vernon Saddleback, Samson Cree Nation; Principal Gail Wilton; Honourary Campaign Chair Larry Wilkins; President of the Alberta Conference Gary Hodder; Mark Johnson, President, SDA Church in Canada; Dan Jackson, President, SDA North American Division; Lynn McDowell, Director Planned Giving and Manager of The Bridge Campaign, Alberta Conference; Keith Richter, CFO/Treasurer, Alberta Conference; Janet Griffith, Education Superintendent, Alberta Conference; William Piersanti, Owner, Sunrise Constructors Inc.; and Wayne Williams, Executive Secretary/VP Administration, Alberta Conference.
MANS' own students showcased their talents at the Grand Opening, including a performance by Total Praise, the school's sign-language group, and a cultural dance by Shaneek and her friends. A school parent spoke, as did Vernon Saddleback, Chief of the Samson Cree Nation—read on to hear why the chief made a tough choice to attend the opening. Guests heard from President of the Alberta Conference Gary Hodder, and other SDA executives from Alberta and Canada.
After the ribbon cutting and ceremony, refreshments were offered in the new cafeteria and guests toured the new campus, where they could meet with staff and ask questions.
The generous support from Mamawi's community, friends and donors was instrumental in meeting The Bridge Campaign's target fundraising goal for a new high school and industrial arts building. Because of this support, MANS will change lives, create opportunities, and inspire young people for many years to come.
Thanks from the Heart
Chief Vernon Saddleback sent his son to MANS when it was a K-9 school. Years later he is still grateful for the education and support his son received, and the chief made a tough choice to attend the opening. Some might consider his choice politically incorrect, but it was based on principle and his heart.
“The largest PowWow for all of Western Canada—for all of Canada—is today at 1 o’clock,” Chief Saddleback said in his speech to the crowd shortly after the 1:30 start of the MANS opening event. “If you are a Treaty 6 Chief that’s kind of where you want to be, want to be seen. But when I got the invitation to go to the PowWow and then the invitation to the grand building opening at Mamawi Atosketan Native School, the dad in me said, ‘I’m going to come here.’
“My son came to this school. I want to tell you it was good for my son. What I want you all to know is that what you do, especially for the children of Maskwacis, is that what you do makes a difference. You made a difference in my son’s life. My son is 23 years old. He’s not financially successful by any means but he’s successful in every other way that’s important. He believes in God, has a strong relationship, and he’s making a difference in what he does, in what he’s chosen to do with his life and I can’t be prouder. When my son came here, this school helped him to become the man he is today. And that’s why I’m here today.
“So I speak as a parent and I came here today to give my love and support for this wonderful place,” Saddleback concluded. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Official Grand Opening Video
Check out MANS' new high school and hear from students and staff, committed supporters, and Chief Vernon Saddleback in our official Grand Opening video.
Grand Opening Photo Gallery
We made the Ponoka News! Click the link below to read their story.