It is not very often that teachers, youth, parents and other members of a community have the occasion to assemble under one roof to celebrate an evening of thanks, hope and entertainment.

But thanks to organizers who wisely combined two of Mistissini’s yearly events— its Teacher Appreciation Night and Public Speaking Contest—into a single program that also included dancing and singing, March 22 was a memorable exception.

Chief William Mianscum began the evening with a brief speech. In his opening remarks, he said the community realizes the teachers’ mandate in the community isn’t an easy one and that Mistissini greatly appreciates the amount of determination and dedication that the teachers have shown towards achieving it. His message was one of understanding, hope and encouragement Soon to follow was the opening prayer by teacher Isaac Mianscum. Afterwards, teachers were treated to a delicious roast beef dinner and later asked to come up to receive special gift presentations.

“The meal was excellent and so was the entertainment,” said teacher Terry Whelan. “No matter where you are, it’s always nice now and then to receive a pat on the back for the work you do.”

Next on the evening’s program was the public speaking contest. Master of ceremonies Ashley Iseroff got things started by introducing this year’s participants: Judy and Louise Coon Come, John Matoush, Twyla Happyjack, Billy Blacksmith, Peter Jolly and Richard Shecapio—all students from Voyageur Memorial High School.

The students spoke about important issues facing today’s youth— violence, suicide, education and religion. Each participant spoke with clarity, confidence and purpose. Their impressive presentations made it difficult for judges to select a winner, but after much deliberation one was announced—Billy Blacksmith for his speech on suicide among Aboriginal youth.

The community of Mistissini would like to congratulate all the students who participated in this event. These brave speakers not only succeeded in helping the community become more aware of the concerns of today’s youth, but also of the talent and potential that exist among the student body at Voyageur Memorial.

And, just as important, teachers were given the opportunity to see the fruit of their labour. Said principal George Blacksmith, “The public speaking contest showed the teachers the positive aspect of their work through fine presentations made by the students.”

In the end, this single evening proved to be one of discovery for everyone present. Teachers discovered that they are valued in the community and that their work is having a positive impact on their students. Students discovered that yes, they do have the courage and ability to speak out and be heard. And the community as a whole discovered that there are many among it who are committed to building a better future for future generations.

A special thank-you goes out to Ashley Iseroff, the Mistissini Neoskweskau Youth Dancers, dancer Winnie Trapper, singer Naaman Shecapio and all those who prepared and served the evening’s food and refreshments.