Jackie Whelly, a teacher at Líídlįį Kúę Elementary School, is hoping to inspire her Grade 6 students with motivational videos created by Fort Simpson alumni.
Whelly’s initiative, Former Student Friday, involves short videos from former students who provide positive messages about what happens next after school ends.
Every Friday morning, Whelly shows one of the videos to her students. Alumni talk about how their life has unfolded since school and the lessons they learned along the way.
“I think it’s important to try to get as many different aspects of life,” said Whelly. “Many different people doing different things.”
Whelly wants to support her students and show them life gets better, especially as her class will be learning to navigate new Covid-19 protocols as they return to school.
“They’re all just in a really weird mindset right now. So, just showing them that as tiring and scary as it all is right now, it’s a small moment of their time and the world is much bigger than they know,” she said.
Whelly was born and raised in Fort Simpson and she, too, graduated from Líídlįį Kúę Elementary School, which was until last year known as Bompas Hall Elementary School.
She hopes students feel proud to come from Fort Simpson and, by hearing from successful people who came from their village, will have an open mind about their futures.
“Sometimes you get caught in the cycle of ‘OK, maybe there’s not enough for me here in Fort Simpson, maybe I’m not getting all I can out of Fort Simpson.’ It’s just changing that mindset for them,” Whelly said.
Coleen Hardisty, who now works for the NWT Literacy Council and is submitting a video for Whelly’s project, says building community through these videos is important.
Hardisty hopes students will see success measured differently, and learn it can mean whatever they want it to mean.
“It doesn’t have to mean lots of money or long hours of work. It could mean just being content and comfortable,” she said.
Hardisty says in the 17 years she lived in Fort Simpson, she held about 10 different jobs, so there is a lot of opportunity for growth and change within the community.
She says an open mind doesn’t mean leaving the community. If students decide to stay in Fort Simpson, she added, there is a lot the village can offer.
“They will be the next leaders very soon. We really do need as many people as possible protecting our lands, our home,” Hardisty said.
Whelly is still looking for videos to show her class, as she needs 34 videos to cover every Friday for the whole school year.
“I want the kids to know that being from Fort Simpson isn’t to their detriment. Being from Fort Simpson often leads to a lot of doors opening that may not get open otherwise.”
Anyone wanting to contribute to the project can email Whelly.