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Alexa Swenson honoured as 2021 LTCHS Valedictorian

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LTCHS valedictorian reflects on her high school career

Setting a goal to achieve well academically has landed Alexa Swenson a top honour as she gets ready to walk across the graduation stage.

Alexa has been named the valedictorian for the Class of 2021 at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.

“I was so surprised when I learned I was this year’s valedictorian! Mr. Good called my mom ahead of time and came to my doorstep with balloons. It was awesome,” she said. “It’s really a great acknowledgement of my achievements.”

Graduation ceremonies for Lindsay Thurber will take place on June 25 at Bower Ponds.

Finishing high school during a global pandemic was no easy feat, and Alexa said her class was hopeful that their Grade 12 year would have been more like a normal year.

“As the year went on it became obvious that we probably wouldn’t get all of our grad events – we had lots planned and then canceled,” she said. “Motivation was the hardest factor. It’s been really hard to go from in-person to online over and over again because you’re learning strategies have to shift. It’s about being self disciplined and making sure you are doing the work because it’s really easy to fall behind if you’re at home.”

Alexa credits a strong support system for helping her achieve her goals.

“My family is awesome and I have two younger siblings who have also been doing online school in our house as well. We check in with each other and make sure everything is going okay,” she said. “My friends were great as well. Each of my classes had a group chat where we could talk and make sure we all knew what was going on and discuss any questions we had with each other.”

Reflecting on her Grade 12 year, Alexa said one of the highlights was taking part in the activities in her Outdoor Ed class.

“One of the best parts was being given the opportunity to go on some trips,” she said. “We were able to go skiing a couple times and we just did a mountain bike trip. We were able to really bond as a class by going on these trips together.”

Looking ahead, next year Alexa will be making the leap to the University of Victoria to complete her Bachelor of Science in Psychology.

“I’d like to go into healthcare, maybe in rehabilitation as an Occupational Therapist or a Speech Pathologist,” she said. “I love being around people and last year I volunteered with Healing Through the Arts at our school. We would do art as rehabilitation for people who had a stroke or people who had an amputation. I thought it was really fulfilling and I enjoyed getting to know everyone involved.”

Chris Good, Principal at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, said they are proud to have Alexa represent the class of 2021 as valedictorian.

“Alexa is a great student whose hard work has paid off with excellent academic achievement all four years she has been at Lindsay Thurber,” he said. “Alexa is not only a great student but a great person. She is kind to everyone, participates and leads school activities and has been a member of the volleyball team. Alexa goes out of her way to make other students feel welcome and included, she represents the resilience and kindness of our 2021 grad class and embodies what it means to be a Lindsay Thurber Raider.”

RDPolytech Athletics

Red Deer Polytechnic Athletics announces Harrison as Queens Basketball Head Coach

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Red Deer Polytechnic Athletics has named Avery Harrison the new head coach of the Queens Basketball program.

“We are extremely excited to add Avery to the Red Deer Polytechnic coaching staff. He brings decades of experience, a proven championship mindset, and the ability to harness the potential in each student-athlete,” says Randy Stewart, Manager Athletics and Student Life. “In addition to being an excellent coach and mentor, Avery has the innate ability to develop a winning culture and to be successful at the highest level.”

The five-time Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year has helped to guide his teams to five ACAC Championships and three Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) titles over 23 years as a head coach in the league. Harrison has led his teams to the national championships 10 times, which is the most for an ACAC Women’s Basketball Head Coach. Harrison was also an ACAC Assistant Coach for 11 years.

In this role, Harrison worked with legendary SAIT Trojans Head Coach Phil Allen, who is an ACAC Hall of Fame Coach and a member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, and a major influence on Harrison’s coaching career. Together, they led the Trojans to four ACAC Championships and one CCAA gold medal.

Harrison has had post-secondary coaching stints at Mount Royal College, Lethbridge College, SAIT, and most recently at Olds College from 2017 to 2020. During his tenure in Olds, Harrison built the Broncos into both ACAC and CCAA Champions in 2019.

With Harrison’s leadership, 46 of his players have earned spots on ACAC All-Conference teams and 12 student-athletes have been recognized as All-Canadians.

Harrison is looking forward to coaching and sharing his expertise with the Queens, who qualified for last year’s playoffs for the first time since 2009/2010.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to join the Red Deer Polytechnic Queens Basketball program as their new head coach,” he says. “We have a great mixture of veterans and I think one of our first goals is to establish a winning culture in our locker room. We need to create an on-court identity that the team can be proud of, so we can go out and give our best effort every night.”

This past season, the Red Deer Polytechnic Queens (7-9) finished fifth in the south and then were downed by the Medicine Hat College Rattlers in a playoff division quarter-final.

Looking to the 2022/2023 season, the returning players and new recruits will all benefit from Harrison’s leadership.

One key returning student-athlete to the Queens is Amy Szymanek, who has been a leader on the team and within RDP Athletics. The team MVP and co-chair of the Polytechnic’s Student-Athletes Advisory Council (SAAC) is entering her fourth season. She led the Queens with 15.1 points per game last year. The Bachelor of Education student’s talent, leadership, work ethic, and impact on the game resulted in a 2022 ACAC Women’s Basketball Second All-Conference team selection. Sophie Melin (12.6 points per game), Lauren France (10.6), Heena Sidhu (7.7), and Keanna Richards (6.1) are also expected to return for the 2022/2023 season.

Harrison will immediately step into his head coaching duties at the Polytechnic.

More information about Queens Basketball, including the roster and schedule, will be available in the fall at: rdpolytechathletics.ca.

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Conference inspires local Indigenous youth to become future leaders

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More than one hundred Indigenous youth from Red Deer Public Schools and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools took part in a conference that allowed them to learn, connect, and be inspired by Indigenous leaders in their community.

The Inspiring Success Youth Conference, sponsored by We Matters, took place on May 10 at Red Deer Polytechnic.

Grade 8 students from across both school divisions had the opportunity to meet new friends who they will attend high school with, reconnect with peers in their current school, and build a deeper sense of strength, belonging, identity, and pride in their Indigenous heritage.

“We were very excited to bring this opportunity to Indigenous youth in Grade 8,” said Hayley Christen, Learning Services Coordinator with Red Deer Public Schools. “It was an excellent opportunity for them to meet new friends and connect with other Indigenous youth in Central Alberta. We wanted the young people to know they are not alone and we also hope the connections they make today will carry forward when they go on to high school. This was a fun, engaging, and meaningful day for all the youth involved!”

Throughout the day, youth were able to participate in 10 different sessions that included topics on goal setting, student success, resilience, Reconciliation, and Indigenous games, along with the opportunity to hear the personal journeys of several Indigenous mentors and leaders.

“This conference has been a beautiful event for the students to witness firsthand the success of other Indigenous people in the local community and come together to connect with Indigenous Grade 8 students,” said Selena Frizzley, Coordinator of Indigenous Education Services with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools. “We had students attend from Rocky Mountain House, Olds, Innisfail and Red Deer. Students left feeling empowered and hopeful after gaining traditional teachings from Elders and Knowledge Keepers.”

“We were thrilled to collaborate with Red Deer Public and Catholic School Divisions, in conjunction with several community groups, to host central Alberta Indigenous youth for Inspiring Success Youth Conference at Red Deer Polytechnic,” said Kylie Thomas, Red Deer Polytechnic Vice President, Academic and Provost. “We are extremely proud of the leadership roles that RDP Indigenous learners, including keynote speaker Logan Beauchamp, and Polytechnic staff assumed throughout the planning and delivery of this impactful conference. The collective efforts from all partners has helped to inspire Indigenous youth both in and out of the classroom.”

“This conference was a way to introduce Indigenous youth to positive role models from their own community. It was also a great way to introduce these youth to more aspects of our cultures, something that a lot of Indigenous youth feel disconnected from,” said Logan Beauchamp, Ambassador of Hope with We Matters. “As well, we were able to highlight some resources and organizations that are doing great things in our community that these youth can access. Most importantly, this conference was hopefully able to help these youth create their own definition of success and help them envision and plan how they can get there”

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