I want to be the first one in my family to finish school. I want to see how far I can go.
Shaneek came to MANS in 2013. The following text is based on a 2015 interview. Hear her June 2020 reflections in the video The Valedictorians.
"I love school!" says Shaneek. "Some people call me 'Strange' because I like math."
Not her teachers. In fact, her math and other teachers keep Shaneek supplied with text-books a year or two beyond her grade, and Shaneek works on them after she finishes her class assignment—usually in no time flat.
Beyond having an aptitude for it, Shaneek loves math because it reminds her of her father, who was also good at math but passed away when Shaneek was 8. "It brings me closer to him and makes me happy," she says dreamily. And she's got lots to be happy about besides math: with near-perfect daily attendance, Shaneek's on top of her academics, an athlete, a competitive Shawl Fancy Dancer, and she's with people she considers "family" every day at school.
The family aspect of MANS—being safe, belonging, and valued in an often-harsh world—is so important that Shaneek left what many would consider a great opportunity to attend a big First Nations school in the city last year. On her own initiative, she got herself back "home" and hasn't regretted it one bit. "It's calm and organized and very friendly—warm like a family."
"I want to go to university and study for a government job to help aboriginals," she says with anticipation. Shaneek beams at the thought of the new MANS high school high school campus. She knows that finishing high school at MANS will be her bridge to further education and living her dreams—something to embrace the future about.
I have some pretty important people in my life. I don't want to risk losing them.
As a teenager in Grade 9, Eileen sometimes lived on the Maskwacis reserve, sometimes off. Separated from people she loved, the drama of her life made Eileen want to quit.
But someone noticed. Vice Principal Michael Willing also saw Eileen’s potential. After a week-long welding “camp” held at MANS after school in March 2018, Mike invited Eileen to join the high school welding class.
Eileen was a different girl on September 26, 2020. Confident and joyful about the future, Eileen, along with co-welder/artist Tessa Potts (MANS Class of 2020), and Mike unveiled Miweyihtowin ("Affinity for Eachother"), their welded sculpture commissioned by the City of Lacombe as part of its public art collection. Their work is permanently installed near Burman University.
For Eileen, a MANS student since Grade 7, and Tessa, a student since kindergarten, "Affinity for One Another" sums up their relationship to the MANS community, but it especially sums up their summer experience in the Leon Ingraham CTS Building welding shop at MANS. Both studies welding there before becoming entrepreneurs, paying for the material and space they used as well as Willing's supervisory time from commission funds.
The girls were of one mind when, as they were finishing the sculpture, COVID-19 safety protocols were being announced by Alberta Education, and it became clear that the measures exceeded MANS' budget for the coming year. With opening day just a couple weeks away, Tessa and Eileen chose to donate $750 for an electrostatic cleaner to help students safe, including Eileen's twin brother.
Now in Grade 11, Eileen's determined to graduate from MANS and make a career of welding.
I think my life would be very different if I'd gone to public school.
Krista started her academic career at MANS' stimulating Grade 1 classroom. She graduated as part of the class of 2017, recognized by Maskwacis as a Youth Role Model.
Krista's one of the 39% of Canada's First Nations youth who finish high school. What's more, while in high school, Krista created and sold beautiful beadwork earrings and medallions, tasted sea water and crossed the Rockies with her classmates on the way to Port Hardy, BC, and dreamed of a bright future—all while holding down an after school job as supervisor at Pizza Hut.
Looking back, Krista is proud of how she juggled academics and increasing responsibility at her work. Krista's positive experience with her teachers made a big impression on her and influenced her career goals. "All the teachers I had since Grade 1 were really good." Now a student at Red Deer College, Krista looks forward to becoming a teacher or counselor, because she knows first hand the difference they can make.