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While student leaders develop and graduate in just four short years, Sisler High School's many humanitarian groups continue to thrive for new waves of students, thanks to the involvement of teachers such as Orysya Petryshyn.
Ms. Petryshyn has been the teacher liaison for Sisler's WE Social Justice group for over ten years. WE, formerly known as Free the Children, is a development charity that seeks to provide equitable access to education, water, food and other essentials for children across the world.
Earlier this school year, Ms. Petryshyn became the first teacher to receive WE's I Teach WE award. The award was one of four created to recognize the local and global work of educators participating in the WE Schools program. WE officials presented Ms. Petryshyn with the award at WE Day Winnipeg on Oct. 25.
The history teacher said she was honoured to receive the award.
"One person is strong, but when you work in collaboration with the biggest school division on our province, we can be the change," Ms. Petryshyn said.
Sisler's WE group spearheads many humanitarian projects, supporting Winnipeg Harvest, Siloam Mission, Christmas Cheer Board and local women's shelters, or helping in international aid efforts in countries like Kenya, Haiti and Pakistan.
Students raise money through snack sales and other fundraisers, and then discuss and decide where the money will go.
"We try to work globally and locally," Ms. Petryshyn said. "We collect food and clothing, and we raise money for our local families."
Sisler WE meetings give students the opportunity to discuss local and global issues.
"We have students from different backgrounds, cultures and religions, but social justice has brought them all together."
With her ties to the Ukrainian community, Ms. Petryshyn also coordinates Holodomor awareness activities at the school. By continuing to promote social justice efforts, she hopes to ensure such tragedies are a thing of the past.
One of the greatest rewards of working with Sisler's WE group is hearing back from students and parents who are thankful for the leadership opportunities humanitarian work can provide.
"These students are becoming leaders and good citizens of Canada," Ms. Petryshyn said. "As a history teacher, it makes me proud. You can see that these students won't stop helping others after they leave Sisler. Now they are leaders."
Over the years, the school has been invited to many special WE Day/Free the Children events based on its humanitarian work. Ms. Petryshyn, and students such as Shania Pruden and Justin Papoff have spoken at previous Winnipeg WE Day events at Bell MTS Centre.
Ms. Petryshyn is quick to credit administration and fellow teachers at Sisler, as well as the rest of WSD and Winnipeggers at large for supporting the school's humanitarian efforts.
"Myself and all of my colleagues, we are doing this because we love to do it," she said.
"Whatever the organization we are working with, we are trying to make the world a better place, we are trying to educate our students. That is our goal as educators. Every day is WE Day."