Being a strong voice for all rural students and a positive role model, particularly for First Nations males, are top priorities for Bruce Baptiste, newly elected as a board trustee in School District 27 for Zone 7.
“I guess now the work begins,” Baptiste said Thursday morning following his byelection win Saturday.
“It’s a new challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
Growing up at Tsi Del Del First Nation and attending a rural district school at Puntzi Lake, Baptiste said he has experienced firsthand the need to provide equal opportunities for students in rural schools.
“For those students, their time is now and education is their future. They need every opportunity available to become productive members of society.”
Baptiste first entered politics as a band councillor for Tsi Del Del when he was just 21, and then again at age 35, serving a total of six years as councillor and has been employed with the Punky Lake Wilderness Camp Society since 2010, working with youth.
Baptiste is also a longtime volunteer; serving as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters program within SD 27 at Marie Sharpe as well as coaching First Nations hockey teams. Through Punky Lake, Baptiste also organizes hockey, soccer and archery camps for children throughout the year.
Baptiste said he keeps himself fit by playing hockey in the winter and road riding in the spring and summer and encourages all youth to participate in sports and get their education for a better life.
“Youth need to focus on education. Gone are the days of having Grade 10 and still being able to get a good job. That just doesn’t happen anymore.”
Baptiste extends his thanks to Chief Roger William and Connie Jasper for nominating him for the position, and to his wife, Shannon Woods, for her support.
Based on a SD 27 population estimate in 2008, there are between 1,100 to 1,200 residents living in Zone 7.
According to SD 27 Chief Election Officer Kevin Futcher, Baptiste received 60 votes in the byelection while Fanny Stump received nine.
Baptiste will be sworn in at the Feb. 28 SD 27 board meeting.