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Praise for literacy

Heather Lange
Northern News Services
Published Friday, September 30, 2011

Courage, commitment and passion are attributes that can take people a long way in any field they choose, just like this year's Council of the Federation Literacy Award winners.

Either working on furthering their own education or helping others to achieve their literacy goals, Sylvia Clement, Clarissa Rogers, Jennifer Drygeese and Lea Lamoureux were recognized for their literacy achievements at a luncheon sponsored by Aurora College, the NWT Literacy Council and the Department of Education Culture and Employment at the Northern United Place on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

The Yellowknives Dene First Nation's Chekoa Program in Ndilo won the organization's category literacy award, which recognized a group's dedication to enhance literacy in one or more of the NWT's 11 official languages.

Drygeese accepted the award on the program's behalf and has been the manager for one year. Drygeese said this is the second year the Chekoa program was revitalized in the community after years of not running. Drygeese said community members of all ages have benefited from the many activities like the after- school program, tutoring for elementary and high school students, lunch hour Weledeh language classes and evening programs like hand games

and sewing nights.

"During the winter in the after-school program there could be up to 40 children and youth.

The positive thing is there is a lot of parents who come up with ideas for the program and get involved and there are kids who are improving education-wise," said Drygeese.

Drygeese wanted to encourage other First Nation communities to start after-school programs.

"For every First Nations community, we need youth programs. If you want to prevent crime and build capacity, offer youth programs, it keeps kids busy and keeps them on the right track," said Drygeese.

The recipient of the Council of the Federation Literacy Award for the NWT was Sylvia Clement. Originally from Tulita, Clement returned to school at the Aurora College Community learning Centre in Norman Wells two years ago while raising her daughter Rihanna and younger brother Qualin.

She hopes to earn her high school diploma this year and then go on to secondary education in Grande Prairie to become a teacher. Clement also has committed to helping others improve their literacy through the Norman Wells Family Literacy Program.

The winner in the educator category, which awards a Northern practitioner in the field of literacy, is Lea Lamoureux, principal of Kaw Tay Whee School in Dettah for the last three years. Lamoureux helped to revitalize the literacy programs at the school in both English and the Weledeh dialect. Her efforts have contributed to many improvements in students reading levels.

Clarissa Rogers from Inuvik, won the award for the youth learner category. Rogers has received the highest average score in her high school class and won the best overall attendance in the last academic year, all after returning to school following a five-year absence.

Gloria Iatridis, assistant deputy minister at the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, said it's important to recognize efforts by individuals and organizations to improve literacy.

"I think that we want to encourage people in the NWT to participate and carry on with life-long learning at the basic literacy level or even further post secondary and professional development work.

"It is important to provide examples of ways people can participate in literacy activities. It doesn't just have to be in a school setting, it could be at home, it could be at work, it could be when someone attends a culture camp," said Iatridis.

Iatridis said this year's winners in the youth and adult categories, Clement and Rogers, have overcome many difficulties.

"There is lot of challenges for adult learners, especially if they have young children, they may be single parents. It takes commitment if it's someone who has left the school system and has been away for several years to go back and try to upgrade their skills, it takes time. It is not something that typically happens overnight."

Iatridis said the department's NWT Literacy Strategy, which was renewed in 2008, is what guides the department's focus. Iatridis said two of the main points of the strategy are the importance of literacy across the ages and recognizing and developing literacy in all 11 official languages.

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