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Academic success linked to Alberta Future Leaders.

Cassie Flett credits the Alberta Future Leaders program for getting her into university.

Currently in her second year at Mount Royal University, Flett, 26, from Gift Lake Metis Settlement, believes it was AFL mentors like Melissa Tierney, who encouraged her to pursue post-secondary education.

"Melissa would keep pushing me and pushing me to apply," said Flett, who was introduced to the program when living in Gift Lake.

It was after Flett herself became a mentor that she applied for post-secondary education.

The Alberta Future Leaders program was founded in 1996. It provides a positive alternative to negative behaviours by having youth mentors work with youth. This year the program was hosted by 10 communities: Beaver First Nation, ChatehDene Tha', East Prairie Metis Settlement, Sucker Creek First Nation, Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement, Kehewin Cree Nation, Kikino Metis Settlement, Fishing Lake Metis Settlement, Piikani Nation, and in partnership with iHuman Youth Society and Boyle Street Community Services for urban Aboriginal youth in Edmonton.

One of the catchphrases for AFL is "happy smiling faces."

Keeping the kids smiling and engaged allows them to open up, which is great for the community, says Scott Grevlund, sport consultant, with AFL.

"Every year I believe the program to be a success because just making a difference in just one youth's' life is a success," he said.

Youth mentors introduce leadership skills and other life skills through sports, arts or culture. Grevlund says he knows the program is a success when young participants are eager for the activities. The biggest moment, though, is the one-on-one time that is spent between the youth participants and the mentors.

"The one on one time not only tells the youths story but it builds a common bond between the youth participant and the mentor; fostering a friendship that they can carry as a positive influence throughout the entirety of their lives," said Grevlund.

Tammy Lamouche, 27, also from Gift Lake Metis Settlement, was introduced to the program by attending the Youth Leadership training camp outside of Hinton.

"Getting to know all these others youth from different communities, was amazing. Cassie did her first year in Chateh and then told me about all these amazing experiences but I didn't understand them or how real they were until I had experienced them," said Lamouche, who went from participating in the program to being a mentor.

Lamouche says she takes away a number of valuable lessons from being a mentor but what stays with her the most is "patience, it's good to have expectations to a certain extent, but you experience way more than you expected."

Alberta Sports Connection hosted a celebration for Aboriginal youth and Alberta's future leaders on Aug. 25. During the formal program the mentors told memorable stories from their time with the youth.

The success of AFL in Aboriginal communities shows that by building a legacy of recreation, sports, arts, and leadership development, youth can develop for themselves a future and path that will also inspire others, says Grevlund. He adds that many of the participants returned to the program as mentors and many went on to post-secondary schooling.

During AFL's 19 years, the program has partnered with 43 communities across the province and has expanded its partnerships to include swimming lessons with the Red Cross and sport camps with the Be Fit for Life Centres.

By Hazel Martial

Sweetgrass Staff
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Title Annotation:COMMUNITY
Author:Martial, Hazel
Publication:Alberta Sweetgrass
Date:Sep 1, 2015
Words:561
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