Hello readers! Today I am publishing a guest blog written and published by Mackenzie Sayers, M.Ed, teacher, motivator, and fellow inspiration-creator! She is employed by a First Nation school board and she loves her job as well as her students who she helps achieve their own goals and grow into their own little magnificent selves. Today, I asked her to write about her scholarship program which provides students with basic supplies to become successful students (supplies that sometimes we forget that are just as important to one’s academic/educational success). You can find out more about why she started this scholarship program and where you can find out more (link provided at the bottom of the post). Enjoy!
Mack’s Packs started as an idea based on the simple fact that I am an educator and I see many students come to school with little to none of the necessary tools required to help them succeed in a classroom. These tools can be as simple as pencils, pens, binders, and much more that one can stuff in a backpack. With this in mind, and the sheer fact that budgets for classrooms have been dwindling I got the idea for Mack’s Packs. I ran something similar to Mack’s Packs when I was a head dancer at a traditional powwow years ago. To show my appreciation, I stuffed backpacks full of school supplies and had all the youth dancers come out and dance. Then I asked community elders to take notice to the dancers and choose one they felt were proud of who they were in the powwow circle. All the kids that received backpacks were beaming and I couldn’t help but wish that I could have provided more to the many youth that came out to dance.
Last year was my first year for doing Mack’s Packs and although I tried as I might to get the word out, I did not get a lot of entrants and in total had nine applicants. Out of those nine I chose to give out five backpacks as they were all from the same category. This year I am hoping for more and utilizing social media to get the word out to our youth that they can win a backpack full of school supplies for the upcoming school year. I also received donations for the backpacks and was able to get them full of much needed school supplies as shown in the picture below.
To participate in the contest, I had students write essays and answer “Why is cultural identity an important element on our educational journey?” I chose this question because it one I answered throughout my own endeavors as a student. It all began when I started to learn about my culture at the age of 12. And then in grade seven it really hit me how important it is to know who you are when I had to take a teacher to human rights. I had witnessed a fight between a Native and non-Native student and heard the teacher who broke up the fight mutter under her breathe “Stupid Indian”. And I thought, she could be talking about him, me, or any other First Nation student so I told my mom, who, I told to tell the principal. Well word got back to her that it was me and while in class, she pulled me out of the classroom and proceeded to yell at me for what seemed like a lifetime. It was humiliating because I’m a crier and no one wants to not only have their classroom but also the senior grade class hear you crying as your being belittled. All I remember from her rants was her telling me “Are you gonna go cry to her now?” when after running away, I was stopped by a concerned teacher and she had her arms around me leading me away to the counselor. It didn’t end there because I decided to take her to human rights and although it did not go to court, she was instructed to apologize, was moved to a different school, and the board implemented cultural sensitivity workshops for educators. I felt the worst for her to do was apologize because she broke down and cried.
That was the beginning when I realized how important it was to be proud of who you are. I still believe this and demonstrated it through the completion of my Masters in Education with my thesis being an action research based project that focused on implementing a culturally relevant classroom into a First Nations classroom. My thesis can be found in the University of Western Ontario libraries. I believe that First Nation students need to be proud of who they are in order to be successful in life. I’m not stating they need to be practicing traditional ways (if that is not their beliefs), but to be proud of who they are and their history. We have a beautiful culture that should be celebrated and a relationship to Mother Earth that should be held near and dear to our hearts. There are many stereotypes of First Nation people and with each new generation I hope that they are broken.
With all of this in mind, Mack’s Packs focuses on First Nations students and the pride that we must have as a nation. It provides them with some of the tools that can assist them to enter into a classroom confidently and feel ready for a new year. This year the competition will be somewhat different with it being open to a smaller age bracket but with more categories to enter. I hope through social media, colleagues, family and friends that word gets out that Mack’s Packs wants to give deserving students back packs to prepare them for their educational journey.
Mack’s Packs information can be found at http://sayers6.blogspot.ca/. All donations are utilized for backpack purchases and the costs associated with having such an opportunity for First Nations students and can be sent thru email money transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe in providing our children with the necessary tools to enter a classroom and feel prepared. Our society is one where education can open many doors and this is just one way to support our students in their scholastic endeavors.