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High school students learn on the job with work experience program

BOW VALLEY – Jackson Dierickse stood proudly at the Canmore Civic Centre last Friday as organizers of the Canmore Winter Festival unveiled Dirty Bird, a sculpture the 14-year-old spent a week helping to create.
Raven Statue
Ethan Lewis, Cedar Mueller and Jackson Dierckse sit with their Dirty Bird, the statue was unveiled at the Civic Centre in Canmore on Friday (Feb. 1).

BOW VALLEY – Jackson Dierickse stood proudly at the Canmore Civic Centre last Friday as organizers of the Canmore Winter Festival unveiled Dirty Bird, a sculpture the 14-year-old spent a week helping to create.

“It’s crazy and tiring and mind blowing,” Dierickse said with a smile.

Part of a team of Grade 9s from Canmore Collegiate High School, Dierickse was one of four who put together the raven-shaped sculpture with help from well-known Bow Valley artist Ceder Mueller as part of a Canadian Rockies Public Schools (CRPS) work experience program.

“This was always a big dream job, so being able to do this was like ‘heck yeah,’ “ Dierickse said.

In total, more than 80 Grade 9 students from Canmore and Banff took part in the work experience project for the second year with students working four to five days with the job of their choice, given a partnered Bow Valley business or organization was available.

“Last year was the first year as a pilot to see if it worked and it did,” Hans Holthuis, assistant principal of the high school explained.

For the Dirty Bird sculpture, Town of Canmore employees collected skis for two months prior to the project, learning the history behind each pair.

“We were overwhelmed with ski donation,” Nicky Pacas, arts and culture coordinator with the Town said at the unveiling.

“Everyone shared their stories with the ski drop off ... there are signatures, there are Olympian skis in there – this required an entire community.”

Paying tribute to late Canmore Collegiate shop teacher Tony Vanderlee, who once had a side business called Raven Lunatics, Pacas describes the Dirty Bird raven “coming to life” in the room next to Vanderlee’s old classroom where students would “peek into” everyday to borrow tools.

“Dirty Bird, our piece of community art, is a reminder about the depth of the community, the stories we have and the people who shape those stories into what we see all around us,” Pacas wrote in an email.

Dirty Bird is just one of the many success stories that originated from the work experience program, as many Grade 9 students agreed the week was beneficial.

For example, Ivy Tupper’s career choice as a nurse was reaffirmed after spending more than 15 hours in the hospital helping assist in the delivery of a newborn.

“It was mostly observation, but I was able to watch a baby be born,” the 14-year-old said. “I really wanted to do that ... and it was really cool.”

With permission from her parents, Tupper was at the Canmore General Hospital from 8 a.m. to midnight assisting and watching the delivery.

“[The program was] 100 per cent beneficial,” Tupper said.

International student Cecibell Ortiz-Caceres agreed.

“It taught me the importance of being prepared and to know what is going on around me,” Ortiz-Caceres said.

Originally from Spain, Ortiz-Caceres shadowed Parks Canada employees in Banff for a week. Part of her learning experience was examining animals in the national parks.

“The most exciting [part] we had to analyze the animals living there. They showed me a deer hit by the train and we had to analyze every organ,” Ortiz-Caceres explained.

The 14-year-old said after the week was done she realized she wants to be a biologist.

“I was able to suggest preventative ways so animals don’t get hit on the train tracks ... my mom was really proud of me,” Ortiz-Caceres said with a smile.

With the success of the program and hearing the student’s stories, Holthuis said the work experience program is something that will continue through CRPS and hopefully expand in the following years.


Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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