BONNYVILLE – Local parents are being recognized for all that they do for their children's schools.
The Iron River School Council received the School Council Award of Merit from the Alberta School Councils’ Association (ASCA) 2021 Awards of Recognition, while Angel Gamache was the recipient of a School Council Parent of Distinction Award.
Gamache started attending parent council meetings three years ago at H.E. Bourgoin Middle School and quickly took on a leadership role.
“I started out by attending one meeting and then the next one came and it was elections,” she recalled. “They literally voted me in that night. That was the second meeting I had ever attended. I was going in blind; it was like I knew nothing about school council or anything like that. Within two months of attending, I was chosen as their chair.”
She learned what the role entailed "from the ground up" and reached out to other organizations like the ASCA to learn more.
“I went to their website, got as much information as I could, and I just started putting myself to work and learning what I needed to do and what my role looked like as chair. From there, I just started gaining experience. I had good mentors, great trustees, and then everything just kind of went that way.”
It was the dedication Gamache showed that prompted HEB principal Jeannine Ellis to put the school council chair’s name forward for the ASCA awards this year.
“Angel has committed the last three years as school council chair to HEB and in that time she has done so much for our school,” Ellis expressed. “She’s promoted the school on social media, set up bulletin boards, been at our wellness night and orientations, she’s brought other people to our school council, she’s fundraised or helped with the fundraising through gift cards and meals that they’ve done for us... She really is a huge advocate of HEB and public education.”
Gamache said it was a shock when she learned Ellis had put her name forward and that she had won. When she became involved, Gamache never would have imagined she would have received this kind of recognition.
“They caught me off guard. I don’t like to draw attention to myself,” Gamache said. “I don’t do it for that. I don’t do it for the recognition. I did it solely because I’m passionate about our kids’ education, I’m passionate about the things we can do if kids are struggling or what are some things that we can do to help? What voice can we give to the teachers to help our kids get better or not have that low self-esteem and say ‘I can’t do this; I can’t do that’ and they just give up.”
With Gamache’s youngest son leaving HEB in June, she has resigned from her position as chair and is hoping someone will step into the role in the future.
Gamache wasn’t the only one surprised by her nomination. Iron River School principal Karen Draycott didn’t share the news that the school's Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) had even been chosen until she learned they had won.
“The reason why I thought they deserved this award of merit was because they have provided many years, not just this year, we have had such a high-level of interest from our parent council,” Draycott told Lakeland This Week. “They have worked tirelessly for our students. They have fundraised thousands of dollars to purchase musical instruments, Phys. Ed equipment, field trips, and they provide a hot lunch once a month to our students, free of charge.”
Iron River School PAC vice-chair Alisha Kunec described the group as ‘happy and surprised’ when Draycott broke the news.
“We were thrilled. We had no idea we were even nominated, so that was a nice surprise.”
Kunec stressed the association’s main goal is to ‘make sure the student experience is as good we can make it.’
Any teacher can make a formal request to the PAC for supplies or equipment they may need, and PAC will do whatever they can to make it happen.
“It’s a pretty rewarding council to be on, mostly because of how great our team is,” she noted. “We’ve accomplished a lot as far as replacing gym equipment, library books, and that sort of thing.”
Their big goal is fundraising for a new playground for the school. Their current structure is nearing the end of its life and they want to make a new one available for the students.
“It’s quite outdated. We’re working on getting funding for that now. The playground we have is over 30 years old. We’re just working on updating that and making it more accessible as well,” Kunec detailed.
Kunec said the PAC has submitted a number of grant applications for the project and are making a delegation to the MD of Bonnyville to request financial assistance.
This is Kunec’s second year involved with the association and her first as vice-chair. What originally started as a way for her to get involved in her children’s school has turned into a rewarding experience.
“Once I realized all the work the council was doing, I got really passionate about it and I think that’s all of us. We’re quite passionate on the team about everything that we’re doing. I think we’re just getting a lot of fundraising and that sort of stuff done in the short amount of time we’ve been working at it.”