October 31, 2017 – A book created by five Parry Sound High School students won a national Me to We contest held this past summer. Building Our Bridge: Our Journey of Reconciliation was written and illustrated by Mackenzie Elwes, Taylor Judge, Sara Burns, Dawson Bloor and Gracie Crafts. Me to We empowers youth to transform their communities, locally and globally, by shifting their thinking from “me” to acting as “we” collectively.
The book documents the history of cultural tensions at the high school and the activities and attitudes that students and teachers adopted to learn about each other to become more inclusive of Indigenous students and celebrate culture.
“We were surprised to hear we had won! It was overwhelming,” says Crafts. “We had an article in the Globe and Mail, we’ve been to Toronto for WE day, we’ve had a mini-book tour at area elementary schools, and we will be going to Ottawa later in November to go on stage at WE Day in front of thousands of other youth change makers. With support from a Georgian Bay Biosphere’s Canada150 grant, we are able to launch the book in the community to tell our story to as many people as possible.”
“It is a story of reconciliation,” says student author and event organizer, Gracie Crafts. “We know the history between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and now it is time to create the future together.”
Illustrated by Mackenzie Elwes, the pictures in the book slowly go from black and white to full colour as students make the efforts to bridge the perceived differences between them.
The co-authors are very excited to share their story with their home community. “We want families to attend so they can start having those conversations in their household.” says Crafts, “It is a story that anyone no matter what age can get something out off. We hope that our audience leaves the evening enriched.”
“We want to tell the story on stage but also show the real things that happened at the school over time,” says Mackenzie Elwes. “We created some safe spaces for all students to talk about difficult issues. We brought cultural teachings into the school. There is the water drum, and now the pow wow. Each of these is a stage of reconciliation in our journey at our school. We’ve had so much support from our teachers, Elders and others in the community.”
The “Building Our Bridge” book presentation will be held Thursday, November 9, 2017 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Stockey Centre and admission is free. No reservations required, all ages are encouraged to attend, and donations are accepted towards youth initiatives.
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For more information, please contact:
Patti Jenkins, Teacher, Parry Sound High School