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Students promote school attendance

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, April 1, 2010

ACHO DENE KOE/FORT LIARD - Brittany Berreault has one message for students, "Be cool, stay in school."

This slogan and a poster promoting it won Berreault first place in the Grade 9 to 12 division of the Youth Justice Committee of Fort Liard's poster competition. The contest was organized as a positive approach to encouraging school attendance, said Ken Nowoselski, a member of the committee.

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Brittany Berreault holds the poster she designed that won first place in the Grade 9 to 12 division of the Youth Justice Committee of Fort Liard's poster competition. - photo courtesy of Ken Nowoselski

The committee takes a preventative approach to helping residents stay out of trouble with the law by supporting a variety of activities. It also works with residents already in the legal system if it is thought that they can make amends and restore their self-image in the community. This is achieved with the committee's support, and by having the accused meet with the victim, Nowoselski said.

"We're there to support," he said.

Many of the committee's clients are youths who don't attend school regularly. The poster competition was developed to challenge students to think of ways to encourage their peers to stay in school, Nowoselski said.

"Everyone in town is concerned that students come to school," he said.

The competition was launched on March 10 and ran for two weeks. Students at the Echo Dene School had a chance to enter in the Grade 5 to 8 division and the Grade 9 to 12 division. Seven judges including Chief Steve Kotchea of the Acho Dene Koe First Nation and Ernie McLeod, head of the Fort Liard Metis, graded the posters.

"There's a lot of support," Nowoselski said about the volunteer judges.

Winners in the Grade 5 to 8 division included Naomi McLeod in first, Stanley Bertrand in second and Derrick Kotchea in third. Blair Kotchea took second place in the older division while Monica Berreault took third. The prizes included gift certificates to the Northern Store in amounts of $150, $100 and $50.

Naomi McLeod, 12, said she decided to enter the competition because it looked like fun. McLeod's poster was decorated with a space and planet theme and included the slogan, "Education is my ticket to space."

McLeod would like to become an astronaut. To help reach that goal, the student said she tries to attend school regularly by walking to class or getting a ride with her grandpa. If you don't have good attendance you don't get to participate in activities, she said.

Brittany Berreault, 14, said just entering the competition helped her school attendance.

"It kind of helped me stop skipping," she said, explaining that she had been missing classes - but working on the poster each day gave her a reason to come to school.

"School is important. It gets you somewhere," said Berreault, who agreed that the competition to promote attendance was a good idea.

Berreault's winning design will be printed onto T-shirts for all of the students at the school in Grades 5 and up. All of the posters that were entered will be displayed in the school, at the community office and on a new billboard that is being developed.

"It's a long-term project," said Nowoselski.

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