Corporations back literacy
Companies pledge $100,000 to project

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Liard ( May 26/00) - Echo Dene school principal Harry Kielly pitched a school and community literacy project in Fort Liard last year, knowing it would take moral and financial support to bring it to fruition.

He quickly received the moral support, and now he has the dollars.

Beaver Enterprises, an Acho Dene Koe-owned company, and Purcell Energy Ltd. each pledged $50,000 towards the school's literacy project last week. The money will supply two-thirds of the needed $150,000 cost of the initiative.

"I think it was a very generous decision on (Purcell's) part ... and Beaver, for them to support it is a local commitment and I think that encourages everybody," said Kielly, adding he expects the project to get under way during the next school year.

"This is going to hit the ground running at the end of August."

He said the reading and comprehension levels of some students poses a serious challenge.

"It is impossible for many of our students to succeed academically until their reading level is close to grade level," he said.

"Success in school will enhance the individual's self-esteem, open new avenues of study and vastly increase the potential for young people entering the workforce in the future."

The aim of the literacy project is to identify strategies to enable students to complete regular school work.

An extra full-time teacher and an extra part-time teacher will be hired. When the last portion of the funding is identified, two additional special-needs assistants will be brought on board, Kielly added.

One strategy that will be employed will be "Structures of Intellect," which entails a series of visual and physical exercises. Another approach will be to use a remedial reading program endorsed by the Reading Foundation, based in Calgary, he said.

Student testing will be done for placement purposes and there will also be a focus on attendance to ensure the literacy project has a chance to be effective, he added.

A community literacy component will also be involved in the project, encouraging adults to read to pre-school children for example, according to Kielly.

Acho Dene Koe sub-chief and vice-president of Beaver Enterprises Judy Kotchea said the donation is an example of how oil and gas activity in Fort Liard is benefitting local residents.

"The best investment we could ever make into the future is in our children and their education," she said.

Nahendeh MLA Jim Antoine said he will encourage his GNWT colleagues to give serious consideration to further supporting the initiative.

Fort Liard is a community of approximately 550 people, 135 of whom are attending Echo Dene school.