It's minus 22 and dropping with strong wind when I pick up Elizabeth and Leon. We're all laughing, reliving good lines from yesterday's road trip to Regina's Idle No More. After Keitha's in the vehicle, and we've driven two minutes, past the coop, Elizabeth says, "Umm. Don't you know Lebret is in the other direction."
"He's from Lebret," I say.
We all laugh good. I have a bit of a reputation for not knowing where I'm driving. When we get out in front of the Senior Centre, Elizabeth speaks to the lady pulling up beside us. "Yup, Sheena," she says, "You've got the right spot."
The room is set up in a big circle, and people are all smiles as we walk in. There's Michael Morin, probably the shyest student I've ever taught, sitting at the front, projector on, ready to be the guest speaker.
The CLIFF community (Calling Lakes Interfaith Friendship Forum) creates a warmth and the building snow outside is far from our minds. They share some announcements, a scripture reading, followed by prepared prayers.
Then, Michael begins to speak and I begin to beam. He tells us of his inability to see his own worth, his shyness, his reluctance to apply for this program. Then of his acceptance, rush for passport, shots, and the journey begins, stretching his comfort levels. He goes zip lining, tries Indigenous foods, travels around the country, learns basic Spanish, lives with two host families, and chooses volunteer projects within the community. The blossoming in this young man and his ability to articulate his growth has me weepy in the back row.
But when he talks about his waterfall experience, nearly drowning in the cold waters, tears waterfall down my face and my teacher heart is so proud you'd think he was my own son.
He speaks about his transformation some more. "As Sheena would tell you," he says, looking at me. "I was a very shy person."
After many others shake his hand, Michael leaning in for hugs from most, I get my turn to hug him. "Listening to you tonight, and thinking of the potential in all my students, especially the quiet ones, you're making me think I can keep teaching for another twenty years," I say.
He smiles and nods. "I had to work hard not to call you Mrs. Koops," he says.
I ask him to come talk to my grade tens in this new semester. He says he will. I ask what he's up to next and pretty soon he starts telling me of a project he's involved in and man-o-man I can't wait to hear his next update. This young man will have my heart beating proud for years and years to come.
Michael will share about his experience of volunteering in Nicaragua for several months in 2012 along with other First Nations and Metis youth as part of Canada Youth Internship program.