Guest post by Jeff Horvath.
Photos courtesy of Ryan Bavin.
CMH Summer Adventures approached Canmore Collegiate High School’s SAGE Program and offered a trip of a lifetime to six students. The SAGE Program is the Stoney Adventure Group Experience. It is an intervention program to increase the high school completion rates for First Nations students. Currently in Alberta, First Nations students have a high school completion rate of 32%. Research clearly shows that without a high school education, the potential for social problems increases.
The SAGE program teaches students that they can face and overcome obstacles by using mountain travel as a metaphor for challenges in life. By increasing the students’ resiliency, we can transfer these experiences to the students’ school life.
And it appears to be working. Canmore Collegiate had its highest group of graduating First Nation students in 2011. Six students from the Stoney First Nation walked across the convocation stage in the spring. CMH wanted to celebrate this achievement by offering the graduates a trip to Bugaboo Lodge for two days of heli-hiking.
In early July the students travelled to the breathtaking site of the Bugaboo Lodge, with the panoramic views of the famous spires nearby. The students were blown away by the beauty. We were all anxious to get aboard the helicopter, and the boys in our group were giddy and laughing nervously as we took off for the first time.
We landed on Groovy Ridge, and exited the helicopter to stand in the snow. Paul and Ryan, our guides, soothed any nervousness we had with their professional confidence and reassurance. Paul is a walking encyclopedia of mountain knowledge and making learning fun is his strength. Botany, geology, anthropology and climatology were all discussed as we hiked. One group member jokingly asked why the sky was blue - Paul had an answer! We ended the hike after some snow sliding in our rain pants. Feeling like world-class lugers, we eventually met up with the helicopter for the ride back to the lodge.
We arrived back to the lodge in time to get ready for the best tasting barbecue we’ve ever had. After dinner, Pat Morrow gave a presentation about local climbing legend Conrad Kain. It was enlightening to hear more about the history of the area and how it plays a big part in the mountain climbing community. That night we had the best sleep in the crisp mountain air.
The next day we were very excited: We were going to experience the via ferrata! Mikey, our CMH Guide, gave us a safety talk as we got our harnesses and safety gear on. We then followed him up for the most exhilarating experience of our lives. We surprised ourselves with our comfort on the rock face. Our past climbing experience in the SAGE program helped us but we had never climbed that high in our lives. We celebrated when we reached the summit by having lunch with the spectacular views of the Bugaboo range all around us.
We want to thank CMH for their generosity and commitment to First Nations students on their journey in education. Our two days felt like a week and this truly was the experience of a lifetime. We were humbled by CMH honouring our students for graduating. My educational philosophy has always been to provide students with experiences that expand their world view. With a greater world view, young people can dream bigger and provide them with the hope needed to achieve great things. CMH has given these young people an experience they will never forget.
In the Stoney language, we would like to say "Ish Nish" (thank you).