YARMOUTH, N.S. – A group of Yarmouth Central elementary school students have been recognized for not only being respectful citizens, but for being caring ones too for their efforts to honour four children who lost their lives earlier this year in a tragic house fire.
This spring an art program at the school called Flowers by the Little Ones was recognized with a Lieutenant Governor’s Respectful Citizenship Award. Thirty-five students at the school, ranging from Grade Primary to Grade 6, had participated in the program that saw them create art work that was auctioned off.
Teacher Ashley Purdy accepted the award on their behalf in Halifax in May, but on June 22 a ceremony was held at the Yarmouth school to individually present award certificates to each student. Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Zach Churchill, also Yarmouth’s MLA, made the presentations.
Following the January fire in Pubnico Head that claimed the lives of four young children – Jayla Kennedy, age 4; Winston Prouty, age 4 months; Mya Prouty, age 7 and Mason Grant age 7 – Yarmouth resident Robert O’Neill, who was among those deeply saddened by what had occurred, approached the school with the idea of creating artwork that could be auctioned off. Teacher Ashley Purdy became involved and knew there would be lots of students who would want to take part.
She was right.
“They spent every noon hour for a month, painting and working on pieces and when I told them at 12:20 it was time to go eat, they’d said, ‘No, no, not yet,’” she said. “All of them equally enjoyed this opportunity as much as I did. The auction that we had put together not only celebrated how much the students loved art, but I think it’s a tale of how much they wanted to support other people.”
Initially the intention of the auction was going to be to raise money for the families affected by the tragedy. Purdy says at the time that didn’t work out so through a lot of conversation and consideration they thought of another way to honour the memory of the young lives lost.
“So what we decided . . . was in memory of the four children who lost their lives, that we would live through those children and offer a bursary for our own Central students,” she said. “So every year at Grade 6 graduation we’ll be offering two bursaries that go to students to fulfill their passions.”
The students’ auction raised over $1,800. The bursaries will support students in pursuing extracurricular activities in areas of interest to them.
Grade 5 student Charlie Gosling says it was a nice project to be involved in, even though a very sad event was the reason behind it.
“I’m glad that we raised the money,” he said, explaining he made a painting on a page, on a chair and on a canvas. Asked how it felt for he and the students to be receiving this award, he said, “It’s pretty cool. It’s for a good cause.”
Churchill applauded the students for their efforts, saying they had made their school, their parents and their community proud.
“Looking at that terrible tragedy in Pubnico, it’s always very sobering when something like that happens. But it’s always so incredible when we are able to come together in the midst of a tragedy like that and try to move positive things forward for others,” he said. “Each of you took it upon yourselves to do that and I want to thank you for that.
“I just want to know how impressed each of us – your parents, your community members are – for your hard work and what you were able to accomplish,” Churchill added. “Raising close to $2,000 is no small feat, and I know the money is going to help your peers and your friends do really important things and keep the memory and the legacy of those four kids in Pubnico alive in a positive way.”
Started in 2013, the Lieutenant Governor’s Respectful Citizenship Award recognizes young people who show outstanding leadership and commitment to fostering inclusive environments in their schools and communities.
Purdy also couldn’t hide her pride in seeing the students’ efforts recognized.
“Girls and boys this afternoon is dedicated to you,” she said. “Remember this forever. It is a once-in-a-lifetime award and I am so proud of you.”