In grade 10, I was brought to the hospital because I fell down a flight of stairs during class. Classic Aleria.

This is my last full week of high school ever, and as sentimental a person as I am, I’m still happy to be saying goodbye. Since it’s the second semester of my fifth year of high school, there are very few students who are in the same grade. Most of those who I graduated with are either working full time or just finished their first year of university. When I walk through the hallways, I don’t recognize anyone anymore, and I’ve honestly gotten to a point where I am past ready to leave. When I was finishing grade 12, it was much more of an emotional goodbye. It felt like I was really saying farewell to my high school experience, and this time around, it’s as if I’m too busy looking forward to be thinking about the past.

Grade 10. Braces and elastics and frizzy hair.

This doesn’t mean I won’t miss it though. When I started grade nine, I was a scared, quirky 13-year-old who came to a much bigger school than my previous one and knew absolutely no one. My middle school was one hallway with six classes, and my high school is five floors that don’t connect, countless hallways, and a million flights of stairs. I still remember my first day of school, walking around the building before classes started, trying to find my classrooms before the first bell. I wore a peach blouse and had a flower crown in my hair, and each nail was painted a different colour. Thankfully, my style and fashion have since evolved, and I only wear one polish at a time now.

My group of friends in grade 11. I love them all so much, and we made some great memories.

Each first day of school, I would walk up to the front doors, and before I walked in, I would wonder, “What will this year teach me?”. And without fail, every year something would happen that at the time I considered life altering. While I know that hindsight is 20/20, and I can see that those incidents were not the end of the world as I anticipated, I still see that I learned incredible lessons and grew as a person from each one. Once in a while, I will have moments when I wish I could have done something differently, maybe said something different, wore a different outfit, spoke a little more, spoke a little less. When I have these moments, however, I remind myself that I couldn’t change who I was. There were things I didn’t know, and I had to learn those things. I remind myself that there are still mistakes I need to make, and one day I’ll look back to myself right now, and wish that I had done something differently, but because I don’t know what I’ll know then yet, I can’t make those changes. I can just do what I hope is the right decision, and remember that life keeps moving.

Show ready in grade 11

And speaking of things moving, I have an exciting, packed summer ahead. I’ll be finishing it off by moving into residence at York University. The first week of summer, I’ll be volunteering as a leader at camp, which I am super excited for! After that, I’ll be mostly working, traveling up north to visit family, and prepping for nationals! I have a few events already scheduled in my calendar, and hopefully, there’ll be even more to add! I’m also starting my six weeks of fundraising for WE Charity (formerly Free The Children) at the end of this month, so I have some awesome fundraisers planned. I also am in the planning stages for a new campaign, so keep an eye out.

NTS Drama Festival ’18, one of my favourite high school memories.

Then in August, I have Miss Teenage Canada, of course! I’ve been super busy preparing and getting myself ready. I want to be in the best shape possible, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, so I feel my best when I walk that stage. This includes working out, practicing, eating healthy, and loads of other things. My goal for nationals is top 10, since last time around I didn’t make it to top 20, but I also want to challenge myself. After the pageant is complete, I’ll have a couple weeks to pack and say my goodbyes, since I’ll be heading off to school! It’s been a stressful few months with applications, acceptances, figuring out how to finance my education, and figuring out everything I need to do before I start. I’ll be studying theatre at York University, and it’ll take about six years since I’ll also be getting my teaching degree concurrently. I’m so excited to move out and be independent, meeting new people and having new experiences, but I know I’ll still have some bumps along the way. It’s just remembering that all of those bumps are chances to learn and grow, and taking those opportunities as they come.

So I am saying goodbye to high school this week. But who knows, maybe if I end up teaching drama, I’ll be back in high school one day. For now, though, it’s see you later. I’ve got lots I need to do, and God knows high school isn’t the end of it. It was far from the “best four (five??) years” of my life, but it’s still full of memories I’ll never forget.

Til Next Time

Aleria

Written by: Aleria Tagged with:, , , , , ,
Leave a comment
Posted On: Categories:Miss Teenage Ontario

If someone you know is in immediate danger, is threatening suicide, or talking about wanting to hurt themselves, call 911 or get help from an adult you trust. All information has been gathered from various mental health resources.


Ask your guidance office for information on suicide intervention training.

Suicide happens across all groups, populations, and ages. Knowing the warning signs and knowing what to do is one of the most important ways you can help to prevent suicide before it happens. And while suicide can’t be prevented with complete certainty, there are steps we can all take to lower the risk among those around us. In this blog, I’ll be talking about signs that could indicate someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts, and what you can do in these situations, with an aim towards youth. There are many resources you can seek that offer training in these areas, and what to look for and how to react. Many communities and schools offer safeTALK and ASIST for students that will give instruction on suicide intervention skills, which can be incredibly useful and important when applied properly to crisis situations.

Let’s start with some information on contacts for crisis and non-crisis situations. In crisis situations, there are many helplines available, as well as 911. Calling 911 will give you information on next steps, and connect with immediate help if needed. I urge you to not be afraid to call 911 if you believe someone is in immediate danger. If you’re unsure, calling a helpline may be another option. Kids help phone is a good resource for children and youth. The counselor will give you next steps, and advice for resources around you. It’s also important to mention that suicide prevention does not necessarily mean preventing a suicide that is imminent. It can mean helping someone you know is in need to connect with supports. Someone can still be showing suicidal ideation while not being an immediate suicide risk, and this does not mean that getting help is any less important.

The suicide prevention ribbon.

So, what should you look for? Three basic things to look for are mood, behavior, and words. Does this person talk about being a burden, having no reason to live, wanting to die, or being in pain? It could be blunt, or small things you may notice that they say that could indicate they are thinking about suicide. Do they abuse substances, act recklessly, isolate themselves, withdraw from activities, are they giving away their possessions? These and more can all be behavioral indicators of suicidal thoughts. Do they display signs of depression, irritability, anxiety, or anger? Suicidal thoughts can come out in a number of ways, and it’s important to check in on those around you when it seems like something has changed. Sometimes, unfortunately, none of these actions can be seen from the outside, and you can miss someone struggling in front of your eyes. This is why it’s still important to check on those around you, even when things seem fine. It can never hurt to reach out.

There are certain risk factors to look out for as well, that don’t cause or predict a suicide but can make it more likely that someone will consider suicide. These can include a history of mental illness, substance use, impulsiveness, major physical or chronic illness, local clusters of suicide, lack of social support, loss of relationships, and many others. It’s important to be aware of these, and be aware that suicide never has one single cause.

So you’ve analyzed the situation, and you’ve decided to talk to the person in need. What next? First, you need to make sure that you’re the right person to approach them, as it may not be you. If you don’t think you’re capable of having these hard conversations, or you have any bias that may upset the person, you may not be the best person to approach them. In this situation, you have a number of options. Talking to a parent, guidance counselor, trusted adult, primary care doctor, or a helpline are all ways you can choose to ask for help in approaching the person involved. They will help from there. If you do decide to have the conversation, it’s important that you have a plan of action, and consider possible outcomes and how you will respond. It’s still vital that a trusted adult is aware of what is happening as youth should never handle this alone.

Start with some questions about how they’ve been feeling. You may choose to ask if they’ve been struggling with anything as an entry point, but it’s important you keep going. Listen to what they have to say, and ensure them that they can trust you. You may choose to go into direct questions, and asking if they have been thinking of killing themselves. If they do say they’ve been thinking of suicide, it’s imperative to ask further questions to evaluate immediate danger. Ask if they have a plan, or if it has just been a thought. If they do have a plan, they’re at a higher risk of being in danger. If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a crisis center, 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Taking measures such as making sure they don’t have access to anything that could be dangerous, such as guns, drugs, knives, or other potential weapons.

Check in on those around you!

Make sure you stay calm and do not leave the person alone. Focus on listening to them, asking questions, and keeping engaged. Insisting on getting help too harshly can have negative consequences, and may cause them to panic. Don’t worry too much about saying the wrong thing, but do stay away from certain things. Avoid telling them that you know what they’re going through, but also don’t be afraid to show empathy. Acknowledge their pain, and tell them you’re there to listen. Don’t pose judgment or guilt them. Saying things like “Think of the people you’re hurting” or “Suicide is a selfish act” can worsen how they’re feeling. Avoid things like passive optimism and things like “it gets better”. This does nothing to improve the current situation and does not solve the problem at hand. However, providing a sense of hope in a meaningful and realistic way can be helpful, as long as you’re not making promises you don’t decide.

If from there, you both decide that it’s not serious enough to seek professional help, ensure that they check in with you on a decided schedule, and make sure they do. Don’t be afraid to ask how they’re feeling when they neglect to let you know, and try to have honest conversations with them. Ask them what helps them get through these tougher times, and remember it for future situations.

Don’t be afraid to seek other resources for help in these situations, and view this blog as a starting point for guiding yourself through situations like these. Always make sure you’re taking care of yourself through this process as well, self-care is extremely important, as these kinds of situations can be emotionally draining. Don’t be afraid to talk it out with someone, and check in on how you’re feeling as well. I hope you found this useful, thank you for reading!

Til Next Time

Aleria

 

Written by: Aleria Tagged with:, , , , ,
Leave a comment

If you’re from Ontario, chances are you’ve heard about the upcoming provincial election. When I turned 18 last year, the thing I was most excited about by far was the fact I could finally vote! I’ve always been an advocate for youth being involved and letting people hear their voices, and it was my turn, so you’ll definitely see me at the polls June 7th!


This isn’t a post about who I’m voting for, who you’re voting for, or any other things like that. Women in politics, equity in politics, and youth in politics in something very important to me, since I believe that if we truly want to strive for equality, all voices should be heard. We are extremely lucky to live in a country where we have power in choosing who governs us and, that we can voice our political opinions freely. Unfortunately, there are many places that still restrict these rights for their citizens, and in many cases, restricting this from women. Even in Canada, women were not allowed to vote until the early 20th century. It boggles my mind that my parents lived in a time where women couldn’t vote just a few decades before. First Nations people could not vote in elections unless they gave up their status and treaty rights up until 1960, only then could they vote without fear of losing their rights. This is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about marginalized and oppressed communities voting. Our voices were silenced for so many years, and this is one of the ways we can reclaim our power. I also have always encouraged youth to get their voices heard, even when they are not eligible to vote yet.

The group of students who started a movement

I am not exaggerating when I say that the youth are the future. We will be the ones to inherit this world and take care of it till we pass it on to the generations after us. It makes me sad when I hear teenagers and young adults say they don’t know enough to vote, or they simply don’t care. Youth have so much power, and there are still adults today who don’t realize that, or perhaps, don’t want to. It’s evident, and we have been seeing across North America today. Thousands rallied for the March for Our Lives, started by a group of high school students. I get so excited when I see youth speaking up and taking the first steps in changing the world. I love seeing youth grow more accepting and educated, seeing them stand up for groups that they might not even be a part of. The youth who make an effort to make a difference are the ones that the coming generations will look up to, and that gives me so much hope. This is why I encourage everyone to let their voice be heard, and speak for what they believe in. Not only this but understand the importance of being knowledgeable about current events and issues in our world. Understand the importance of educating oneself. This translates to politics on a local, provincial, and national scale.

Electoral ridings in Ontario

So, how can you vote in the upcoming election? First, you must be 18 years of age and a resident of both Canada and Ontario. If you are, you’ll need to register to become a voter. Information on this can be found at the e-Registration website. Unsure who to vote for? Do your research! However, I can’t stress how important it is to ensure that the information you’re receiving is accurate and unbiased. I’m never one to say any political party is perfect, but a biased editorial or an article from a tabloid can spread misleading, and in some cases, false information. We’ve all heard about “fake news”, and unfortunately this is what happens sometimes! This can come from either side as well, it can be overly positive, or it can be overly negative, whichever benefits the side at hand. Start by looking at your ridings candidates, and what they stand for. Get out to town hall meetings, debates, and other events happening in your community. See what each candidate has to offer. Next, you can look into the provincial party leader, and read up on their opinions on current issues. Think about their platforms, and how they could affect you personally, but also don’t be afraid to think about how they will affect others. I try to look at things considering what can benefit everyone, so that’s something I’d take into consideration. If you’re looking for a starting point, here is a “cheat sheet” of sorts from Maclean’s, but make sure that you do further research on points that are important to you! And who knows, maybe you’ll even decide to not vote, as many do. If that’s the case, I still encourage youth to be educated on the issues at hand, even if they decide they don’t want to vote.

Thank you so much for reading!

Til Next Time

Aleria

Written by: Aleria Tagged with:, , , ,
Comments are off for this post
Posted On: Categories:Miss Teenage Ontario


As many of you from Six Nations may know, the last week or so has been Community Awareness Week! The festivities have come to a close today, and I am so excited for next years events! The last two weeks have been filled with fantastic events all around Six Nations. Before the week started, I had made a list of events I wanted to check out and attend, but before I had come home from provincials for the drama festival, I found myself with the flu! I was in bed for the next four days and I was still under the weather for most of the weekend. I was so disappointed because there were so many things that I wanted to go to and get involved in. Community participation is so important, and it’s apart of not only individual wellness but group wellness. A strong sense of community is vital to creating social wellbeing. This is why I was so disappointed when I got sick, but as an advocate for mental health, I realize that physical and mental health are directly related, and I need to ensure that I am healthy before I can help others. Self-care is so important, and it’s not selfish to take the time to focus on yourself and how you are feeling.

Before the parade!

Fortunately, by the next Monday, I was feeling much better, which was just in time for Bread & Cheese! If you’re from Six Nations or you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know what I’m talking about. However, if you don’t, Bread & Cheese is an annual Six Nations tradition that draws out thousands of community members. It’s our way of celebrating Victoria Day, in which everyone lines up for a piece of bread and a piece of cheese. There are always other events, like fireworks, a parade, a carnival, and various tournaments. It’s one of the biggest events in our community, and I love going. This year, I participated in the parade and was involved in the after party, hosted by myself alongside one of my absolutely fantastic sponsors, Six Nations Marketplace. The parade included various organization, businesses, and ambassadors. My incredibly supportive stepmom drove the truck while I sat in the back. The day before I had just picked up my freshly made signs, made by OH Multimedia, a local business which made a couple fantastic banners I’ll be using at events and parades!

Saying hi to the tortoises!

Afterward, I stayed and got my bread and cheese, and checked out some of the community vendors. I always love going, because I see so many people I wouldn’t see anytime else; former friends, classmates, teachers. After I had the chance to see everything, I headed over to the marketplace where my family had set up a food booth. They are so supportive of me, and I am so lucky to have people who help me to succeed and make sure everything goes as planned. At the party, there was food, bouncy castles, a petting zoo, and not to mention the incredible vendors! I was especially excited to see the petting zoo, so as soon as I had the chance I was over there in a heartbeat. There were reptiles and other small animals, as well as a baby alligator and a giant snake! My boyfriend worked at a zoo for a number of months, so as we walked around the displays, he told me about each one and their typical behaviour, as well as anecdotes about his own experiences. My favourite animals were either the tortoises or the chinchilla, but all of them were super interesting! I also have a huge soft spot for guinea pigs, so I melted when I saw the hairless cavy, which they had dubbed a “house hippo”.

While I do wish I got out more, Community Awareness Week looks like it was a huge success, and I can’t wait for next years events!

Til Next Time

Aleria

Written by: Aleria Tagged with:, , , , ,
Comments are off for this post

I thought I’d just do a fun quick blog, to just to tell you all a little more about me!


10 Facts About Aleria!

  1. Although I have a huge sweet tooth, I hate chocolate and ice cream! I’ve never liked chocolate, but at some point, over the years I lost a taste for ice cream as well. And despite my lack of love for chocolate, I love Oh Henry bars! They don’t seem to taste like chocolate to me.
  2. Silver Linings Playbook movie poster!

    I am a huge movie junkie! Every year I try and make sure I’ve watched all the major movies nominated for Oscars. I also keep a list of my favourite movies, but my all-time favourite is Silver Linings Playbook.

  3. I’m ambidextrous! Although I’m not able to fully able to use my fine motor skills with my left hand, I use my right hand for fine motor skills (writing, etc), and my left hand for gross motor skills (opening jars, playing sports).
  4. I have always been obsessed with penguins! It all started when I did a project on them in grade 2, and I’ve loved them ever since. I even wrote a book about penguins in grade 3, which I still have in a folder of old school assignments. I also have a collection of stuffed penguins all around my room, and I keep my favourite one in my bed!
  5. I have four middle names! They’re all family names, and since I was my parent’s only daughter and last child, my mom decided she needed to get all the family in one name.
  6. A photo at dance class from 2015

    I danced from 2002-2015, and was a competitive dancer from 2008 on, competing in Myrtle Beach, New York, and California. I was trained in ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, and hip hop.

  7. I am fairly fearless, although rollercoasters are mostly off limits for me. I’ve never been afraid of putting myself out there and, sometimes, making a fool of myself. I’m always open to new experiences and learning and growing from mistakes I make.
  8. I am not a fan of most sports, but I love baseball! I wasn’t into it until my mom took me to a Jays game a few years back, and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Personally, I’m a Toronto fan, but I miss a lot of the players who’ve been traded. I don’t think you’re supposed to form emotional bonds with players, but I’m not worried.
  9. Nikki from 6Teen, I even wanted to have her purple hair!

    I absolutely love the cartoon 6Teen! It used to be on Teletoon I believe, but it was always my favourite. I went through a phase a couple years ago where I rewatched the entire series, and I remembered how much I loved Nikki! I wanted her style so badly, and I thought her quick humour was so funny. I even considered getting a nose piercing like her for a while!

  10. When I was little, I went to a Robert Munsch made up a story about me! I had gone to one of his shows with my grandma, and he saw me sitting in the front row. He asked me my name, and made up a story on the spot about my super curly hair!

Those are just a few little things I came up with! I’ll be posting more in the coming weeks, thanks for reading!

Til Next Time

Aleria

Written by: Aleria Tagged with:, , , ,
Comments are off for this post
Posted On: Categories:Miss Teenage Ontario

“Lily was always the girl who kissed the stars, who danced in the flames, whose eyes were big enough to swallow the entire night sky.”


Cast and crew of “And She Split the Sky in Two”

The past few months have been a blur of stage lights and rehearsals. I can’t accurately recount the time and effort, the blood sweat and tears that went into this show. There have been roadblocks and difficult points, but we’ve been lucky to have been able to pull through to put on the best show we could. I’m so blessed to have been able to put myself out there in such a raw and honest way, and I’m so happy that our show has been recognized for all it has. For those of you who don’t know, the NTS Ontario Drama Festival, formerly Sears Drama Festival, is a high school theatre festival comprised of three levels of competition, districts, regionals, and provincials. All participating schools compete in the district competition. From there, depending on the number of participating shows, a select few are chosen to move on to the regional festival. There are 6 regional festivals, and from there two shows move on to the provincial level. It’s the largest drama festival of its kind in the world, with approximately 400 shows a year. It’s a fantastic learning and growing experience, and I am so thankful.

Cast and crew!

Two years ago, when I first knew I wanted to write a play, I had no idea where it would take me. It was my second year participating in the Sears Drama Festival, and I knew I was in love. I knew I loved the stage after having performed in three productions; Skin, The Orphan Train, and Still Life With Iris. I had found a home in theatre, and I was slowly becoming aware of the impact it could have on an audience. So slowly, over the next year, I began to write. Every few weeks I’d have an idea, and I’d quickly jot it down on my phone. I would write a chunk of text and leave it alone for another month. I really began writing in early 2017. I had the idea of a girl who loses her older sister suicide. I grew up familiar with suicide and the valuable lives it takes, and after experiencing the lack of knowledge and education on indigenous issues in our country, I knew I wanted to bring light to these issues in a manner where people would listen. In a manner that would speak to people. I have always loved writing and with my newfound love of theatre, I thought this would be the perfect medium to tell this story.

The Poster!

After a few months working on it, I finished the first draft. It was around this time our 2017  Sears show was finishing up, and all of us were deciding what play we were going to produce the next year. All the students who wanted to be involved in the show came together and pitched some ideas. We read excerpts of various scripts, including my own, and anonymously voted on what show we wanted to be a part of. A week later, it was announced that my show was picked! I was so excited and honoured to even have my play chosen, I couldn’t imagine what was in store for us. We chose the directors and stage managers, and about two weeks later, we held auditions to cast our leads. Over the summer, I worked more on the script. As the playwright and artistic director, I began brainstorming ideas for the set, costumes, blocking, and other aspects of the show. It was also during that time that we found out that Sears would be pulling all funding from the festival since it’s closure in Canada. We were all devastated because we thought this meant no more Sears. Fortunately, over the next while, funding came through and some phenomenal sponsors stepped up to save a festival that has been running for over 70 years! It was renamed to the National Theatre School Drama Festival, which many of us are still getting used to, I admit.

We all came back to school in September ready to begin. We finished casting and worked for a few weeks on the production side of things. In October, we started with actors, rehearsing hours on end. Since we had a majority non-indigenous cast, something that was important to me from the beginning was that they understood the story they were telling. We had rehearsals where we would dedicate our time to sitting and discussing various indigenous issues, focusing mostly on suicide and intergenerational trauma. I often gave the cast “homework”, which meant a number of articles, movies, videos, and poems. I encouraged them to not only look to me for information, as I am only one person and do not represent every native person’s experience but to also make an effort to educate themselves. I explained how looking to people of colour to educate them is harmful, and not everyone has the time or mental energy to dedicate to teaching those who are unfamiliar with these problems. With this group, I let them know that their time and dedication, and willingness to learn is why I spent my time teaching them. With many ignorant voices in today’s society, it is inspiring and refreshing to see people want to understand.

With Abbie, one of the incredible leads!

After I won Miss Teenage Ontario, things really began rolling. I tried to get the word out about the show any chance I could. We all were so excited when we heard we would be on APTN National News. When it came time for it to air, we all sat down in the auditorium with the projector showing the news live. It currently has over 600 shares on Facebook, and it was such a great way to spread our message! The district competition was also quickly approaching, and seeing the show come together was such a reward for everyone’s hard work. We successfully completed our scheduled public performances, and it was time for districts. The moment the girls stepped on that stage, my breath was taken away. I can’t describe how odd and amazing it was to see the words I wrote on my cell phone on a Greyhound bus a year earlier come to fruition in front of an audience. They blew me away and received a standing ovation, I felt like a proud mom! At the awards the next night, we all held our breath as we received awards for Best Student-Written Production, Original Music, Technical Innovation, and Technical Proficiency. Finally, it came down to the two Outstanding Production awards. I held hands with Abbie, one of our leads, and to my genuine surprise, they called our show! Many of us were crying, and we were all looking forward to going returning to regionals!

With our main cast members after learning we would move on!

Over the next weeks, we prepared for the next level of competition. We spoke a lot about the potential of moving on, and why we were doing the show. We all agreed that our sole focus was telling a story that needed to be heard, everything else came second. So when it came time for regionals, we felt ready. Of course, there were the customary pre-show nerves, especially with the pressure of provincials. We all were so passionate about the story, and we all wanted to see it be successful, not to mention it would be the first BCI show in over 30 years to make it to provincials. However, the nerves didn’t show as they all got onstage and gave it their all. The next night was awards, and I think everyone was anxious. That night, the crew earned an Award of Excellence in design for production aspects, our stage manager received the Stage Managers Award, and I received an Award of Excellence for playwrighting. Finally, the time came for what we were all waiting for. Outstanding Production. Only two shows at each regional festival have the honour of being presented with this award, and out of 11 productions, we were hoping for the best, but also knew that there were so many shows performed that week. The first show was announced, and we all cheered. It was a deserving production, and we all loved watching it. I held hands with Abbie yet again, and hearing “And She Split The Sky In Two” was a literal dream come true. We were all in total shock, and nearly all of us were in tears as we went onstage to collect our award.

There was only a week between the regional festival, and the provincial festival, so the next morning everyone was in high gear. Hotels, registration, permission forms, lists, lists, and more lists. We had two rehearsals and a fundraiser performance before we left on the 9th of May. Fortunately, everything ran fairly smooth with minimal bumps, which is a big deal if you know any of us. A week before the festival, I got an email saying that I was shortlisted for the New Play Award! I had sent in my play to the NTS Drama Festival committee for the New Play Award, which is given to a student playwright who’s show was entered into the current year’s drama festival. This year had 23 entries, and out of that, 4 scripts were shortlisted. I had also received another email, saying that I would be given an interview for the Ken & Ann Watts Memorial Foundation Scholarship awards, which are scholarships and bursaries given to students entering any form of the arts for post-secondary. It would be a nerve-wracking 4 days, but nonetheless unforgettable.

Banners that were given to each school!

We spent 4 days and 3 nights in Cambridge for provincials. The days were filled with workshops, and the nights were spent at social activities with the other students from participating schools. Unfortunately, I caught the flu while we were there, so that was a bit of a damper on my experience, and I was not able to attend workshops. However, I still managed to attend the social events during the evenings, which included a talent show on Thursday, and a neon-themed dance on Friday! Both were organized by this year’s Miss Teenage Waterloo Region, Avery! It was so great to be able to reunite and catch up with her and, of course, chat about pageant stuff! We meant to grab a photo together, but the week was busy for the both of us and we never got a chance.

We were the last show on the first night of the festival. I was nervous, as I usually am, but everyone brought the audience to their feet. I was so so proud of everyone for bringing us this far. Prior to the show, many people were in tears, as we knew it would be our last performance. For a number of us as well, it would be our last performance of our high school careers. Everyone was crying, and there were hugs all around. I was so thankful that everyone embraced this story the way they did and brought my heart to that stage. I worked so hard not only writing the show but directing it as well. I knew everyone had worked incredibly hard and put their all in as well. They showed me that hard work pays off, and I am so inspired by everyone involved in our show.

The Outstanding Achievement Award winners!

The next few days, we watched a number of fantastic shows! There were 2 shows from each regional competition, so 12 in total for the week. To close off the festival was the awards ceremony. There were a number of different awards for not only provincial participants, but participants for the entire festival. I had had an interview for the Ken & Ann Watts Memorial Scholarship the day before, so I had my fingers crossed. There were 2 Stratford Summer Program Scholarships awarded, one of which was given to a BCI student! After that, there were 4 $1000 bursaries awarded, one of which was given to our wonderful puppet maker/puppeteer, Jessica! Who coincidentally is my roommate for university next year! I was extremely nervous as they began to announce the scholarship winners. Before I knew it, they were calling my name as a winner of one of 4 $3000 scholarships! I didn’t win the New Play Award, but it went to a show from another region which I am sure was very deserving! After those awards, the festival awards were given. The cast received an Outstanding Achievement Award, which was incredibly deserved. Last, the Mira’s were awarded, which are for individual achievement. Jessica was awarded one for puppet creation, and our show’s director and I received one together for collaboration in direction and playwrighting. Normally they are for individuals, however, the adjudicator felt that 3 of the awards belonged to two people each, and I completely agree. The other two went to two puppeteers from The Twoman by Grimsby Secondary School, and to the playwrights of Play Rights by Loretto College School.

I can’t thank this festival enough for everything it has given me. This has been such a great way to end my four years of the Sears Drama Festival, now NTS Drama Festival. Having this opportunity to tell not only my story, but the story of those around me has been such an honour. It’s because of this festival I am able to do the things I am doing, and I couldn’t imagine life without it. Theatre has taught me so many lessons and I’ll hold these memories close for the rest of my life.

Til Next Time

Aleria

Written by: Aleria Tagged with:, , , , , , , ,
Leave a comment

If you ever need to reach out, there are always resources. 

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Six Nations Youth Crisis Line: 1-866-445-2204
Haldimand/Norfolk REACH Crisis Line: 1-866-327-3224
Native Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-877-209-1266
Mental Health Crisis Line St Leonards: 519-759-7188


Suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations youth than for non-Aboriginal youth.

Suicide rates among Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.


I am not one to normally state statistics. I believe that we shouldn’t diminish people, entire lives, to a number. Many communities face the issue of suicide, and even one is one too many. However, sometimes, it is necessary to show the scale of the disproportionate amount of indigenous people who take their lives in our country each year. The events I’ve witnessed and experienced in the last few years, have been what has inspired me to raise my voice, and make a difference. When I chose my platform, I wanted to be able to speak about it with a true passion. I felt that if I didn’t choose a cause that was close to my heart, it would seem ingenuine. I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts for a long time, and I attempted suicide in April of 2017. This is something I always try and be open about because I don’t believe there is shame in being honest. In asking for help. I also believe that the more we talk about these problems, the more others will be comfortable in coming forward with their own struggles. Many people say they feel alone, and I understand that feeling completely. In my times when I’m feeling at my lowest, knowing there are people who understand what I am going through is an undeniable comfort. My goal is not only to be a voice and an advocate but also help individuals, those who are on the front lines.

A clip on suicide in Attawapiskat from 2016, click image to watch video

Suicide among indigenous people is a unique issue. Many reservations and communities are fairly small, and even on large ones such as my own, it can still feel as if everyone knows everyone. The ripples of a suicide in these communities are felt by all, and the youth are normally the ones taking the ripples turned riptides head on. Frequently being exposed to suicide can sometimes also account for suicide clusters, and lead to the normalization of these behaviors, which is extremely dangerous for impressionable youth. By showing examples of more people seeking help, instead of glorifying the actions of those who are lost by suicide, we can help one another. Honouring their lives, and vowing to ensure that no one else feels so helpless that they feel the only option is to take their own life. Many of the issues faced by those on reservations can be traced back to the lasting effects of colonization, including residential schools experiences, forced assimilation, modern day racism, forced adoptions and foster care, forced relocation, and denial of existence as people. Intergenerational trauma is a term meaning the inheritance of historical oppression and its negative consequences to future generations. You can see this in communities affected by residential schools.

Youth are so valuable to our communities and to our world as a whole. Youth are capable of moving mountains and making change, and a prime example of this is the March for Our Lives held this past year. Led by youth, they created real change and started a movement for something supported by many people, youth, and adults alike. Many Indigenous cultures emphasize the importance of the coming generations. We are to think about the 7 generations after us when considering how our actions will determine the future. This includes emotional, environmental, and community decisions. There are a number of communities suffering and living in third world conditions in our own country. So many reserves do not have adequate living conditions, let alone mental health services. Canada does not have statistics to begin to approach this epidemic, and we are the only G7 country without a national suicide prevention action plan. While I think we are very lucky to live in such a diverse, wealthy country, there are still places we are lacking, particularly with our treatment of the first peoples of this country.

Telling a story that needs to be heard.

The first step to creating change is bringing awareness. With “And She Split The Sky In Two”, the one-act play I wrote for the NTS Drama Festival, I hoped to start a conversation. Many people are still extremely unaware, many people refuse to believe there is a problem, and there are those who simply don’t want to listen. There are always hard conversations we need to have, and as allies, it is their job to have these conversations. I have spent years having these difficult conversations with those who would rather stay ignorant, and I understand how draining they can be. Fortunately, with our show, we have had so much incredible feedback, and stories from those who are beginning to understand. While this is a start, it is important that people take it upon themselves to educate, and not always expect those in these situations to do the educating. While there are always people willing to teach, there are just as many who don’t feel as if they should have to, and it is completely understandable. Suicide and trauma is a sensitive topic, and thinking about it constantly is emotionally, mentally, and physically draining.

As a suicide attempt survivor, I deeply understand the mental health issues today’s youth are facing first hand, as well as those on reserve. I want to be a role model for other youth who are struggling, and show them that things always have the potential to get better. Mental health should not be shamed, and every person should have the opportunity to seek help. My goal is to start a conversation, the real work starts after that, and that includes every single one of us.

Til Next Time

Aleria

 

Written by: Aleria Tagged with:, , , , , , ,
Leave a comment

Thank you for tuning into the last installment of my wellness series! I hope you all have found this useful! It was a learning experience for me as well. Today’s installment is focusing on social wellness, and how you can make small changes to improve this in your own life!


Social Wellness and You

Social wellness refers to your relationships with the people around you and how we interact with those around us. Building healthy, supportive, and nurturing relationships are vital because these relationships can offer support during hard times. Humans are a social species, and we all rely on each other in one way or another. When discussing social wellness, it’s necessary to ask yourself a few questions. Are your relationships positive and rewarding? What aspects of your social life are you satisfied with? What do you want to improve? Reflecting on your own actions and how they may affect the people around you is key to keeping your relationships healthy.

So what can you do to improve your own social wellness? First, participate! Don’t be afraid to explore diversity, be open-minded when talking to people of different backgrounds. Gaining self-confidence is a prime factor in improving social wellness. Many people are insecure about their ability to communicate with others, and the only way to improve this is practice! Talk to new people, ask questions, and don’t be afraid! Every single one of us has had moments where we said the wrong thing (or think we said the wrong thing) and won’t let it go for a week. Trust me, I know I have. However, it’s in these mistakes that we learn and grow! Making mistakes is human, and no one can tease you about it because none of us are perfect. Participate in social activities you enjoy, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Not everyone loves huge groups of people. I recommend finding a school club or community group you can participate in that caters to your interest. Maybe it’s a video game club or an activist group or student council or a sport or, if you’re like me, a theatre group! Participating in something competitive can also enhance your teamwork and collaboration skills. Often times, you also can create close relationships that’ll stay with you for a lifetime. I’ll never forget my fellow drama friends and the girls I grew up dancing with.

What does a healthy relationship mean to you?

Having the awareness to be able to tell the difference between a healthy and a toxic relationship is also important to your overall well being. There are many signs you could be in a toxic relationship, and this does not have to refer to a romantic relationship. Friends, relatives, and even parents can pose a toxic environment to you. It is always hard to deal with these relationships and avoid them in a mature and safe way, but it is up to you to decide what if best and safest for you. Ask yourself questions about the relationship in question. Is there a mutual respect? Is there trust? Honesty? Do you encourage each other? Is there a healthy amount of time spent apart? Together? There are also many signs of an unhealthy relationship. Watching your feelings when interacting with this person can be telltale signs. If you find yourself feeling pressured or controlled by them, tiptoeing around their feelings, feeling afraid of angering them, you may need to reflect on what can or should be done. You should never feel guilty for ending an unhealthy relationship. Do what is best for you and your well being, instead of what you feel others want you to do. For more information, read this article on healthy vs unhealthy relationships.

How can you improve your resolution skills?

Last, let’s talk about conflict resolution. We all can spend time building conflict resolution skills, and these are skills that can be used in the workplace, school, and personal relationships. Conflict generally arises from differences of any kind. When approaching conflicts, it’s important to consider what the root of the problem is. Sometimes underlying issues between individuals can cause conflict about small, unimportant problems. Sometimes, it is truly about what the disagreement is focused on. It’s also vital to remember that when ignored, conflicts can grow much larger than they need to be. Dealing with it when it arises is always the best way to go. After considering the root cause, think seriously about both sides. While it’s near impossible to look at it without a bias, you can do your best to look at the facts, and consider both opinions. Keeping calm is the fastest way to lose control of your emotions and situation. Be honest and respectful, voice your opinion, and listen to theirs. Chances are, whatever it is, they feel just as strongly as you do, and that should always be remembered. Active listening is also key to considering both sides. Listen to what they have to say, and make sure you’re listening to hear what they are saying, instead of listening to respond. Here is an article from the Huffington Post on 10 tips for effective conflict resolution, if you’d like some extra reading!

Thank you so much for reading! I truly hope you enjoyed this series! I have two scheduled posts for the next couple weeks, so stay tuned!

Til Next Time

Aleria

Written by: Aleria Tagged with:, , , , ,
Leave a comment

Thank you for tuning into the fourth installment of my wellness series! There will be one final part after this one, in which I will be writing about the importance of social wellness, and how you can make small changes to improve it in your own life!


Mental Wellness And You

As defined by the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Mental health can be impacted, positively or negatively, by a number of factors, both internal and external, both nature and nurture. While we can’t control or avoid many of these factors, there are things we can do to help ourselves handle stressors in our lives a little easier. So! Let’s discuss some of these strategies.

Mind full vs. Mindful

First, mindfulness. We all hear this word a lot when speaking about mental health, but what is mindfulness? In a nutshell, simply learning to stay in the moment and accept things how they are. Practicing mindfulness has a number of advantages to your own mental health. Studies have shown that it is beneficial to not only your physical health, but also enhances memory skills, attention skills, and reduces anxiety, stress, and depression. So, how do you practice mindfulness? There are many strategies to begin, and you can find youtube videos that will help guide you through the process. Here is a guided exercise you can practice, the recommended amount is once daily. The more you practice, the better you become, and the more benefits it will have to you.

Here are some key components to practicing mindfulness:

  • Pay attention to your breathing, staying in control and aware.
  • Notice and acknowledge what you’re sensing in your situation, the sights, sounds, and smells.
  • Recognize that your thoughts and emotions are valid but temporary, and do not define who you are.
  • Pay attention to your body’s physical sensations, everything your body is feeling
  • Make time to practice mindfulness in small throughout the day

Stress less!

What else is there? Well, something I know many teenagers struggle with, including myself, is putting ourselves into positive environments. It’s very easy to get caught in your emotions, shut people out, and hole up in our beds listening to sad music. But while feeling your feelings is important, pushing yourself further into your hole by surrounding yourself with negative emotions and energies won’t help your mood lift. Surrounding yourself with positive people who you can have fun with, but also will support you will help you in the long run. Even something as small as opening your curtains to let some sun in, or if you’re up to it, even sitting outside, reading a book. Now that we’re into the warmer months, getting outside can be incredibly helpful. Just remember to wear sunscreen! Sometimes I find myself feeling bad for days on end, and I realize that I’ve been doing nothing to change it. So I get up, open my curtains, clean my room, and drink a bottle of water. While it doesn’t solve all my problems, it definitely doesn’t hurt. Many people find changing things up in their personal space can help them feel better. Maybe rearranging your room, redecorating, changing up your phone case, or even changing your lock screen could help lift your mood.

And speaking of getting outside, physical well being is directly linked to mental well being. It’s difficult to be healthy mentally when you are not physically healthy. As I outlined in my physical wellness post, choosing healthy foods, drinking water, and getting active is key to staying healthy. Not only does this improve your physical health, but improves your mental health as well. Research has shown that neurotransmitters responsible for feeling good, are directly affected by things such as your digestive tract. I always find when I eat better, I feel better, and after I find myself inside after going to a walk, or after lacrosse practice, I’m in a lighter mood. Other studies have shown that reducing sugar, fried food, and alcohol consumption can improve symptoms of depression.

Self Love Tips- Click to Expand!

Finally, something often overlooked is self-compassion. Learning to forgive yourself is an invaluable skill. Many people criticize themselves when they make mistakes, or fail to reach a goal. Never demand perfection or set standards for yourself that you wouldn’t set for anyone else. We all have flaws and imperfections, don’t beat yourself up because you’re human. Encourage yourself, and when you don’t have the outcome you want, look towards the future instead of dwelling on what could have been. We can’t do anything to change the past, but the future is in our hands. Pay attention to when you’re using self-hating language, and when you catch yourself, ask yourself if you would say those words to a child. If the answer is no, think about how you can change that thought into a self-loving one. Being kind to yourself is an imperative part of your overall wellbeing. Self-love is so powerful, and I hope you all find it.

Thank you so much for reading this weeks wellness blog! I hope you found it useful. Stay tuned for the final installment next week, and upcoming posts on the NTS Drama Festival, and my platform!

Til Next Time

Aleria

Written by: Aleria Tagged with:, , , , ,
Leave a comment

First, let me apologize for the late entry! I have been extremely busy the last two weeks with school, and the National Theatre School Ontario Drama Festival regional competition. However, hard work pays off, and I am so happy to announce that the play I wrote was chosen to be one of 12 schools to perform at the provincial showcase next week! That is 12 productions out of approximately 400 across Ontario! I’ll be making a post after provincials all about the show and our journey to the Ontario showcase, so stay tuned! And now, thank you for tuning into the third installment of my wellness series! There will be two more parts after this one, in which I will be writing about the importance of mental and social wellness, and how you can make small changes to improve these in your own life!


Spiritual Wellness And You

Let me start with a disclaimer. Spirituality does not equal religion. However, it definitely can! Spirituality can mean anything, from praying to meditation, to even taking a walk through nature. It doesn’t have to equal one religion or another, and I encourage everyone to search and discover what feels right to them. I am personally connected to my own traditional spirituality and I am also a Christian. The key word here is “personally”. This is my own experience, and I truly hope everyone finds something they can connect to. Today, I am here to help you along with your own journey and give you things that can help you discover your own spirituality. Everything can be personalized, and I hope you will work towards spiritual wellness!

“The Golden Rule” of various religions. Click to enlarge.

First, let’s discuss learning about your connection to the universe around you. It’s a big, big world, and it’s incredibly hard to comprehend the size of it. This world offers so many amazing adventures and lessons that you cannot even begin to imagine. How is that not exciting? Learning your own personal history, and the history of the places and communities around you opens up worlds within this world, and the possibilities are endless. Travelling can be such an eye-opening experience, and this doesn’t have to mean going on an expensive trip to a foreign European country, or backpacking South America, although that would be incredible! Our own country offers such incredible sights to see, and not enough of us take in the sights in our own metaphorical backyard. Here is a list of places to visit in Ontario, a province I am so proud to represent! Although this list doesn’t include my favourite place in the world, Lake Temagami, it’ll have to do. There are so many beautiful places with rich history, brimming with stories and lessons, it’s only up to you to listen! I love learning about other cultures, places, and religions. I believe that you can find life lessons in nearly everything, as we are always growing as people. I love experiencing all I can, love, happiness, excitement, and even the more negative things, like heartbreak and hurt. Why? Because this is the human experience! I am so lucky to be alive, experiencing all that I am, why not experience everything I can for the few moments I am in the world, learning what I can, knowing what I can.

“Helping one person might not change the world, but it could change the world for one person”

Now, let’s discuss your connection with the people around you. Selflessness is a not only a virtue held high in many faith institutions as you can see in the photo above but in many non-religious communities as well. There are so many ways you can serve your own community and give your time for those who need it. I view giving back as a way being thankful for my abilities, gifts, and time. I am in a position where I am able to help others who are not as fortunate as me, and isn’t that a blessing in itself? A good way to start is thinking about causes you are passionate about. For example, you might love working with animals! If this is the case, local SPCA’s are always taking volunteer applications. Maybe you like working with kids, you could volunteer at a local after-school program. For me, I like working with middle school-aged kids, so I volunteer at a summer camp, serving as a leader for that age group. When you give your time to other people, it’s one of the most rewarding things you could do. Not only do you have the opportunity to learn, grow, and meet new people, but you know you made a difference. Despite this, you should never need a reason to help someone, simply do it because you can. As Bruce Lee once said, real living is living for others.

Volunteering at the Six Nations Earth Day clean up!

Last, let’s talk about your connection to our mother earth. We are so lucky to be in a world with such beautiful and magnificent natural beauty. It’s when I am in nature, reflecting and connecting back to the earth, when I am most thankful for this life I’ve been given. I love going up north to Lake Temagami, as it’s an hour away from the closest city, and at night you can see every star in the sky. There’s so much wildlife, and so much natural beauty to see. Don’t know where to start? Well, first, go outside! Fresh air is great for the soul, and now that it’s starting to warm up in many places, it’s the perfect time to go out to a park or a hiking trail and shake off those winter blues. Also, taking care of our environment is indescribably important, as we want to keep this natural beauty for generations to come. Recycling and reducing your waste are great ways to start. Start small, and expand where you can. Ask for no straw at restaurants, or buy your own pack of paper straws to bring places! Reducing the amount of plastic you use is so important to our environment, and is necessary if we want to be sustainable. Always bring reusable bags to the grocery store, and cut down on your use of plastic bottles! Chances are, if you’re not drinking water, your health will thank you too!

Spirituality can mean so many different things, it’s just finding what it means to you. Thank you so much for reading this weeks installment, I’ll be getting back into the rhythm of things this week hopefully, so stay tuned!

Til Next Time

Aleria

Written by: Aleria Tagged with:, , , , , , ,
Leave a comment