Prince Albert teachers raising money for Victor Thunderchild scholarship, who died after COVID-19 diagnosis
PRINCE ALBERT -- A group of teachers at Prince Albert’s Carlton Comprehensive Public High School are hoping to continue Victor Thunderchild’s work for Indigenous education.
Thunderchild died last week after testing positive for COVID-19. He was an academic counsellor at the school, but was well known across the city as an Indigenous dancer and advocate for reconciliation.
“A lot of people were reaching out asking ‘What can we do?’ We wanted to do something good that was lasting,” said Kelly Klassen, a teacher at Carlton.
Klassen is part of a group of teachers who are fundraising for the Victor Thunderchild Legacy Scholarship. The details are still being worked out, he said, but they’re hoping to give out two $2,000 scholarships each year for the next four or five years. Their goal is to raise $20,000.
Dani Van Steelandt, another teacher who’s helping with the project, said the scholarship would go to Indigenous students or students who have shown an interest in Indigenous culture.
“His goal, I think, would have been bridging the knowledge between First Nations communities and non-First Nations communities. One of the things you might hear him say is ‘We’re all treaty people,’” she said.
“That idea of going on and being successful regardless of my barriers and my challenges, I think that’s something that he was working on all the time.”
Van Steelandt said Thunderchild’s family will be involved in deciding eligibility for the scholarship.
Klassen said Thunderchild made an impact on students and staff, and was “tirelessly doing things for Indigenous kids.”
“He was the voice of a lot of kids that identify with him. He was always looking out for the everyday kid. He was always in the hallway making sure they were going to class. He was always there to talk to. He laughed with them,” said Klassen.
“Officially, he was an academic counsellor, but unofficially … he was kind of the bridge to our First Nations community. He was that champion for our First Nations kids,” added Van Steelandt.
Rather than gathering to grieve his death, residents are hanging posters on their windows or drawing an apple with a feather, and using the social media hashtag #ApplesForVictor.
The school has hung posters across its windows and doors at the main entrance to the building. Earlier this week, there was also a display of flowers, feathers and a photo of Thunderchild outside of the doors.
Klassen said Thunderchild had a lot of future plans for helping students. He planned on being part of a Following Their Voices program at Carlton, an initiative aimed at raising graduation rates among Indigenous students.
“He didn’t even get a chance to start that,” said Klassen.
“He started work trying to get kids through education and being successful, and it wasn’t done.”
Klassen and Van Steelandt have launched a GoFundMe to raise money for the scholarship. As of Friday afternoon, it’s raised over $9,000 of its $20,000 goal.