Ten Youth Selected as 2023 Indigenous Role Models

February 2, 2023

This past December, the Indigenous Education Advisory Committee reviewed applications submitted by several grade 12 Indigenous students from secondary schools throughout the Abbotsford School District. These students are acknowledged for connecting to their culture, leadership, and service in their schools and communities, and for their aspirations toward future goals. With over 200 grade 12 Indigenous students in the district who are eligible to apply to become an Indigenous Role Model, many excellent applicants make it a very competitive process and a difficult decision for the Indigenous Education Advisory Committee.

“These Indigenous youth emulate hopeful possibilities for a positive future. They are the leaders of tomorrow and each are dedicated to serving their community,” said Darlene MacDonald, District Principal of Indigenous Education. “I love how the students hold up the community that has supported them in their learning journey and the connections to culture that strengthen as they participate in the Indigenous programs in our schools and in their communities. I hope you will take the time to read their messages as they truly are inspiring,”

The Abbotsford School District and the Mamel’awt Indigenous Education Centre are proud to announce the 2023 Indigenous Role Models:

Lauren MattiesAbbotsford School of Integrated Arts (ASIA), Sumas Mountain Campus
Lauren connects with her Métis roots through art, dancing, textiles, and beadwork. She plans to attend post-secondary with a focus of study on psychology and counselling.

Nayimah Lewis | Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts (ASIA), Sumas Mountain Campus
Nayimah is a strong school leader, active in participating with her school community and represented at the YDI Youth Advisory Council, providing an indigenous perspective. She plans to attend post-secondary to study music, major in voice, and then continue her education to become a teacher.

Angie Calhoun Abbotsford Senior Secondary​
Angie sees how important it is to share her culture. She drums, dances, and speaks on important topics at school events to further share the Indigenous culture. She will attend university to obtain a bachelor of Indigenous Studies and pursue a Law Degree.

Kash Silver | Abbotsford Senior Secondary
Kash is heavily involved in activities with his community, helping at family gatherings, powwows, and ceremonies. After graduation, he plans to attend the carpentry program at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Logan Thibeault Bakerview Centre for Learning
Logan is happiest when volunteering in different areas like powwows, working in the school garden and teaching classmates some of the Cree language and traditions. He has a passion for cooking and after high school plans to complete his Red Seal level 2 for cooking.

Michael Kirkness | Bakerview Centre for Learning
Michael connects with his culture through activities like fishing, powwows, and jigging. He will be the first in his family to apply for post-secondary and hopes to one day train a fire crew in his Northern Manitoba community.

Clayton Ritchie | Yale Secondary
Clayton is connected to his culture through drumming, singing, learning Halq’emeylem language, and participating in Longhouse events. He is a strong school leader providing mentorship for other students. He will attend UBC’s Okanagan Campus to study Sociology, obtain his Bachelor of Arts, and then looks forward to applying at Peter A. Allard School of law to specialize in Criminal Law and Indigenous Law.

Fraser Smith | Yale Secondary
Fraser is passionate about keeping the Halq’emeylem language alive. He is heavily involved in drumming and singing in First Nations ceremonies and community and school events. He is proud to be a mentor for students, sharing his knowledge of drum making, canoe pulling, and fishing. After high school, he plans to continue playing rugby and travelling with the Indigenous Provincial team and attend UFV’s Bachelor of Arts program with an Indigenous focus.

Julia Hegberg Yale Secondary
Julia prioritizes giving back to the community. She enjoys volunteering and raising awareness about Indigenous people and the prominent issues Indigenous people are faced with today. She plans to attend the University of the Fraser Valley to receive a Bachelor of Arts. She will apply for the teaching program to become an elementary school teacher and eventually obtain her Master’s degree to become a school counsellor.

Santana Defazio | Yale Secondary
Santana is enthusiastic about Indigenous culture and is an Indigenous leader for her school. She plans to attend the University of Mary in North Dakota on her academic and athletic scholarship for the women’s soccer team. She will be studying to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice.

Students will be honoured at the Semá:th First Nation Longhouse on April 11th, 2023 at 10 am in a special ceremony. Congratulations to the Abbotsford School District's 2023 Indigenous Role Models! 

About the Abbotsford School District’s Indigenous Role Models Program 

In 2002, the Abbotsford School District’s Indigenous Role Models Program was established as a means to celebrate Indigenous graduates who have a purposeful plan beyond graduation. These students are recognized for connecting to their culture, leadership, service in their schools and communities, and for their aspirations towards future goals. To date, approximately 58 students from the school district have been recognized in this program.