PA girl connects to culture in nationwide contest

By Sarah Stone
June 18, 2012 - 6:46am

One Prince Albert girl is proving she can overcome harsh obstacles.

Grade 7 St. John Community School student Charmaine Gamble, has just won a spot to be a finalist in a nationwide contest for Canada’s History Young Citizens Program.

She is one of 200 students who were named a top Heritage Fair winner in their area and is now competing for a chance to win a trip Ottawa.

“I just about exploded, like I almost broke out in tears. I really thought it was over, until I realized I had to do something with a camera and it was just shocking,” Gamble said smiling.

“I’ve done it since Grade 4 and I’ve never made it before, so when I first found it I was just like “whoa” and my friends were just happy and clapping their hands and just real happy.”

What makes this success story even more inspiring is Gamble has to face more obstacles than the average student. She has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy in the form of spastic quadriplegia.

This means it affects all her limbs and leaves her in a wheelchair much of the time, but this does not seem to bring her spirit down.

“I think that she is the most amazing spirit I’ve met in a long long time,” said Marilyn Oleksyn, her educational support teacher. “She overcomes anything that would be seen as a disability.”

After spending only a few minutes with Gamble, it is clear she is well-spoken and puts thought behind what she says, often smiling and telling stories.

“It’s only been in the last, real year, that this girl has come out, and these verbal skills of hers are amazing. Like she literally, to get to where she is right now, had to out shine both Grade 7 classes at this school then she went to the next level,” OIeksyn explained.

As a nationwide finalist and only one of 11 in Saskatchewan, Gamble had to create a video sharing historic milestones in her heritage.

Gamble chose to express an important aspect of the Cree Nation.

“Well I come from Beardy’s reserve and the thing is, I never got to finish school there … and they taught a lot of language and I’ve learned a few of my countings and some words but I never finished,”

Gamble said, adding she will take Cree classes when she hits High School.

The young girl spoke much of her heritage and pride in her culture. She said it is important for her to stay connected to her past and her family and added this contest has helped her with that.

“My (dad) watched my video online and my auntie said he was crying and saying ‘thats my little girl’,” Gamble said tearing up. She said she doesn’t see her family too often right now, but this video and the media attention has helped them connect with her.

A moment that stood out after speaking with Gamble was her belief in the spiritual.

She said that before she filmed her video for the contest she went outside and just listened to the wind. Gamble explained her elders would say if she listens in the wind she’ll hear her family speaking to her.

“I’m kind of not really sure if I’ll make it to go to Ottawa, but I know even if I don’t there’s a lot of people who are happy for me,” Gamble said.

Oleksyn also believes this contest has done nothing but bring good things Gamble’s way.

“It’s given her a stronger voice … for her to be as part of as much of a natural life as she can and have a voice within that, which has just grown and grown this year and this just gives her more confidence.”

To help Gamble win a trip to Ottawa you can vote for her video here until Aug.7.

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