Scarborough school to welcome First Nations youth

Some Sir William Osler High School students are getting ready for a trip to Northern Quebec thanks to a weekend fun fair.

On Feb. 26, the high school hosted its first community fun fair to raise funds for a student exchange program with a First Nations reserve in Northern Quebec.

Wendy Tulke, a guidance counsellor at the school, planned the student exchange program with the help of the YMCA.

“We have 12 of our MID (mild intellectual dysfunctional) students going to the Quebec reserve Oujé-Bougoumou at the end of May and the visitors are coming here at the end of April,” she said.

The exchange program offers students an opportunity to travel outside of Ontario. For Tulke, she wanted her students to experience diversity.

“I wanted a cultural experience for our kids,” she said. “I wanted them to experience a First Nations group. We were very lucky to get the reserve Oujé-Bougoumou in Quebec.”

The carnival offered a variety of activities, including a jumping castle, face painting, bowling and henna tattooing. The school welcomed vendors to showcase and sell their products, such as custom-made jewellery, African inspired art, hand-knit blankets and ethnic foods.

School principal Kathy Pelaia said she believes this year was the perfect time to launch the exchange program.

“We’ve been expanding the opportunity for our kids over the years,” Pelaia said. “[In the past] we had them go to Muskoka Woods overnight for a three-day trip and they’ve been faring really well on that. So we thought we would extend it to an overnighter, out of province trip.

“They’re very excited. Many of them haven’t been away from home on their own. It’s a truly exciting event for everyone concerned.”

Suzie Hammond attended the community fun fair with her 6-year-old daughter.

“When we heard what was going on, we were eager to help,” she said. “It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon while contributing to a great cause.”

The YMCA will cover the majority of the cost, including travel and living expenses for both sets of students. The money raised at the Feb. 26 event is to go toward the host school’s plans for the First Nations youth when they arrive.

“We’re hoping to raise $1,000 to $1,200,” Tulke said.

The Oujé-Bougoumou students are set to experience a schedule of events planned on their six-day trip to Toronto that includes a tour of downtown, a movie night, dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, shopping and box seat tickets to a Toronto Raptors game.

As for the Sir William Osler students, their schedule includes a range of activities focused on native culture, including ice fishing and hunting.