On June 10, 2013, a dream came true at Gordon Bell High School. In a beautiful ceremony headlined by Premier Greg Selinger, the entire school community celebrated the official opening of their long-sought and hard-won green space.
Principal Arlene Skull hosted the joyous event, which brought out dignitaries from all levels of government, sports heroes from the past, present and future, donors, community supporters and the entire student body, all of us dressed in new school T-shirts — purple, of course! It made the old feel young and the young feel old enough to accomplish anything they put their minds to.
I even got to play in a short pick-up game of ultimate frisbee… thank goodness the students went easy on the guy with the ponytail and business suit!
What made the day all the more special was knowing that our entire community made the green space a reality. The odds certainly weren’t in our favour at the start. Canada Post had legally purchased the former car dealership right next to the school, and needed it for a new mail distribution centre.
This meant we had to find an alternate location Canada Post would agree to, find the money to buy it from them, and then find more money to transform this massive parking lot into a green space no one had budgeted for.
And yet it still happened.
Led by the indomitable spirit of the students themselves, the entire school including parents, staff and teachers rose to the occasion. They marched. They rallied. Held fundraisers. Media events. Then they marched and rallied some more, sometimes in the dead of winter. The story caught everyone’s attention — this inner-city school, where the student body comes from all over the world and speaks over 50 languages, all working together for a common cause.
I was onstage at Gordon Bell’s graduation ceremony when local MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre) announced that, after extensive negotiations, Canada Post had indeed agreed to sell the land to Gordon Bell. The room exploded with a sound of pure joy that I am not going to forget anytime soon.
Some months later, the school gymnasium heard the same roar of approval when Manitoba’s Education Minister Nancy Allan announced the province would provide $3.9 million to buy the land, plus an additional $1.5 million to help with redevelopment costs. The school kicked its fundraising into high gear and raised an additional $500,000, with $50,000 of that coming from Principal Skull and her family. We did it!
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, sometimes it’s the children who raise the villagers, to new heights of optimism and accomplishment. Next time you need some inspiration, take a stroll down to the corner of Broadway and Portage Avenue and dream all you want.