VICTORIA – A Canmore local has been selected for an award by a prestigious Canadian school.
Naashkii Soler was selected by St. Michaels University School for its first Indigenous Peoples Within Canada Award.
“I live in Canmore, not on-reserve, and growing up I noticed that Indigenous students didn't always get the same opportunities as students living off-reserve or as predominantly white students; I noticed this huge disparity between the two,” she said in a media release.
“Since I'm Indigenous, but I've been born into this position of opportunity, I’ve always felt it's my place to help Indigenous students and Indigenous youth have more opportunities. That's been my life goal since I was little.”
Soler is part of the Lynx Clan of the Ojibways of the Onigaming in northwestern Ontario. A Grade 11 boarding student, she joined the school this year after being one of two students chosen through the annual The Best School Year Ever contest.
The contest awards two grand prize boarding scholarships worth $65,000 and the two finalist scholarships for $45,000. It had hundreds of entries across North America, including nine Canadian provinces and territories and 37 American states.
The media release noted Soler has had a positive impact on St. Michaels University School – known as one of the top secondary schools in Canada – and her perspectives and passions have shined in classrooms and the community.
The head of the Victoria-based school, Mark Turner, said Soler was chosen due to her commitment and confidence shown since joining the school.
“She is a leader at SMUS and a wonderful student who we are all learning from,” Turner said. “I’m a great believer in encouraging those with leadership potential to develop that to the fullest in the expectation that over the next several decades of one’s working life, that leadership will come back to communities.”
The concept behind the award began in 2017 as the school looked to improve its relationship with First Nations. After consultations with elders, the importance of helping reduce financial barriers that deter Indigenous youth from attending the school was highlighted.
Soler said her goal is to become an Indigenous rights lawyer “to help Indigenous people who are less fortunate or who have fewer opportunities … to further help move Indigenous people away from the effects of colonialism and towards a better life for everyone.”
She said continuing her Grade 12 year at St. Michaels University School will help her understand important issues and help find solutions to issues she hopes to tackle in her future.
“I’m proud to be part of a school community that has put reconciliation at the forefront of its educational beliefs and values,” she said. “I know there’s more I can contribute in this area, and I’m so inspired to be part of this journey.”