Encounters with Canada experiences the best of a lifetime says local student Tatjiana Cinnamon

Dianne St. Jean
Left to right: Sydnie Pelletier (also from VSS), Elaina Woroshelo (Prince George, formerly from VSS), Olivia Holmes Dawson, Cayla Oliveira, Tatjiana Cinnamon, Maxine Houle, Monica Pickett.
Left to right: Sydnie Pelletier (also from VSS), Elaina Woroshelo (Prince George, formerly from VSS), Olivia Holmes Dawson, Cayla Oliveira, Tatjiana Cinnamon, Maxine Houle, Monica Pickett.
Submitted photo

“One of the best experiences in my life.”

That is what you hear every time you ask a high school student about their Encounters with Canada (EWC) trip, and this year the response from Tatjiana Cinnamon of Valemount Secondary School was no different.

Cinnamon, along with Sydnie Pelletier, also of VSS and Elaina Woroshelo (formerly of Valemount, now residing in Prince George), took part in a week-long program at EWC in March, with a total of 99 students altogether in their group.

EWC offers at least a dozen different themes for youth to choose from as they learn more about Canada’s history. Cinnamon and the others opted for the Arts and Culture theme. The choice was a natural fit for her because of personal artistic and musical interests and talents.

Cinnamon is an artist and also plays the drums, guitar, and ukulele. In fact, she brought her ukulele along with her on the trip. She and another girl from Oliver entertained others with their playing and one evening, together with about 20 others from their dorm, held a variety show.

Youth who attend EWC are also given a choice of workshops to attend. Cinnamon chose African drumming and wire sculpture. They also had a choice of a cultural event, and she and Pelletier opted to attend the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators.

The group also got to visit a number of national venues such as the National War Memorial, museums and the Parliament Buildings. Cinnamon was particularly impressed by the exhibit of First Nations artist Alex Janvier at the National Art Gallery.

“My favourite part of the trip,” she adds, “was meeting people from all over Canada.”

“It’s very common for students who attend EWC to form long-term friendships,” comments Jeannette Townsend, current Mayor of Valemount, who is the EWC Regional Coordinator for the North Central British Columbia region. Townsend has held that position for 28 years. She and VSS teacher Brian Hanson are responsible for helping students apply to the program.

Once a student informs coordinators of their interest to attend, they receive an individual access code which allows them to register online. They list at least three top choices of themes. Remaining theme weeks for 2017 include First Responders, Global Affairs, Communications and Social Media, Law and Our Justice System, Medicine and Health, Science and Technology and Sports and Fitness, but there are many others offered throughout the year.

Cost per student for a week is just $675, and that includes lodging, meals and most planned activities and local transportation. Travel to Ottawa from anywhere in Canada is free, thanks to Exchanges Canada, a program of the Department of Canadian Heritage and stay at the Terry Fox Canadian Youth Centre.

This year Encounters with Canada is celebrating its 35th year, and with that boasts having hosted over 107,000 Canadian High School Students.