Sunday, December 4, 2011

Community Leaders Holiday Reception & Keyano College Student Awards Night Celebration

On the night of November 30th I had two events to attend that night.  The first one was the Community Leaders Holiday Reception being hosted by Mayor Melissa Blake and the Regional Council.  I needed to be down to the Stonebridge right at 5 pm because I had to out of there by 6 pm. So with the car all warmed up on a chilly winter evening,  I made my way downtown for what promised to be an exciting evening.  Upon walking in the room, and much discussion about the private meeting coat rack, I made my way around talking to many people that I have come to call friends over the past years of making Fort McMurray home. I was pleased to see so  many people who work so hard to help our community having a chance to receive a thank you from the city.  So to those community leaders who attended and those who didn't let me say a heartfelt THANK YOU for all your hard work and dedication to making our community a better place for all of us who make Fort McMurray our home.
I have to admit I was keeping an eye on the coat rack, because I knew that when certain people who were attending this event put on their coats, it was my cue to leave for the next event.  We were all going to the same place......Keyano College for the 2011 Student Awards Night Celebration.  Before long I putting on my coat and heading off to the College.  I have to admit I was practically bouncing off the walls knowing that someone had received my bursary.  I couldn't wait to meet her.  A future teacher who was going to make a difference in the life of Alberta students for years to come.  Who was our future community leader.  There was no way that I was going to miss attending the Awards Night and I am looking forward to attending for years to come.  I was abit nervous though.  I had received an e-mail the afternoon before asking if I would give a 2 minute speech during the event.  Don't get me wrong, I am good giving speechs to large groups, but somehow this one was different....more personal.  For a person who blogs, facebooks and twitters, I am actually a pretty private person.  To talk about why I do what I do somehow seems self-serving.  So with much trepidation I agreed to address the students that evening. 
There was over 300 awards, bursaries and scholarships handed out to smiling students at the annual Student Awards.  With over $300,000 in awards, bursaries and scholarships, the whole evening went off without a hitch.  Russell Thomas made his way through a long list of names, some more challenging than others, in an efficient and humorous manner.  I was happy to see that there was students of all ages walking across the stage.  I believe that anyone can go back to school regardless of age to further their education and it is not always just a young person's game. I myself have gone back to Keyano College to take a course or two over the years when I have questions on a subject or just looking for something to fill up some down time and am curious on a subject.  What can I say... I love school.
At the end of the night it was time for me to give my short speech and meet the student who had won the Tracy McKinnon Education bursary.  I walked the red carpet to the podium and with Russell lowering the mike for me I delivered my speech;

Good Evening.
My name is Tracy McKinnon.  It is my pleasure to be here at the 2011 Keyano College Student Award Night Celebrations.  I have had the honour of watching some of the amazing students who are receiving the awards and bursaries this evening walk across this stage.  As this is my first year as a donor I am definitely looking forward to meeting many more students in the years to come. The awards and bursaries have been made possible through the generosities of various donors to the Keyano College Foundation. 
We are here this evening to celebrate the importance of pursuing further education by encouraging excellence.  I believe that we are helping shape our future through the encouragement of our leaders of tomorrow.  Each student receiving an award or bursary this evening needs to be congratulated for their hard work and achievements within their field. The recognition that we give this evening to these outstanding students serves as a community “thank you” for the investment of time, effort and heart of our most valuable resource….. each of you.
There are many reasons to become a donor, although my reason pretty much remains the same reason that I do most things in life….I believe that one person can make a difference.  I chose to create the Tracy McKinnon Education Bursary to help someone that I don’t know to become a teacher.  As an avid life-long learner, education has always been a constant thread throughout my life.  Through my years of involvement with schools, the provincial organization of Alberta School Councils’ Association and currently as a Trustee in The Catholic School District, I have witnessed the dedication within the teaching profession.  It was very important to me that the bursary was set up not on marks or financial need alone. I was very specific that the person who qualified for this bursary had community involvement.  You see… I am really doing this for my son.  The individuals who receive this bursary are the kind of teacher that I would want not only for him, but all the children who attend school. 
In closing, I would encourage more citizens of Wood Buffalo to come forward to help local students in achieving their dreams.  As we build the infrastructure of our lives, we can take the time to construct the bridges of community capacity to ensure Wood Buffalo remains a strong global competitor.  To the students in the room tonight, I hope that you realize that the horizon will lean forward for you, offering you a space to place the new footsteps of change.
Thank you for your time.
Then it was time to meet the person who I was there to meet, Lainey Shuttleworth.  I was absolutely thrilled to meet her.  Then the surprise part.  She is Hope Moffat's daughter!  Hope has taught me at Keyano College when I was there years ago taking a literacy course in early childhood studies.  It really is a small world.  Then I received the best present a person can get.... a handwritten thank you note from both Hope and Lainey.  That is something I will keep forever.
Meeting Lainey for the first time on stage.

 From Left to right; Ann Everatt, VP of Academics; myself; Lainey Shuttleworth, and on the right is John Wilson, chair of Keyano's Board of Governors
 After a wonderful evening and a having a chance to talk to Lainey I made my way home for the night.  It had been a great evening.  Then something happened the following evening that completely took me for a loop.  I was out with some friends and a young man came up to me to ask if I was the same person who had given the speech at Keyano College the night before.  To which I said yes.  He shook my hand and said that he and his girlfriend, who had was in the nursing program and received awards the previous night, had been in the audience.  He continued with I just wanted you to know that your words last night really touched us and I had to come say thank you. It was then that I could not find any words.  For those who know me, I am sure that this is hard to believe that I could only say an awkward thank you.  I left feeling absolutely uplifted and with a lesson in life.  Words count and individual people can make a difference. 
Thank you to all the people in this community that make a difference. 

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