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Greg Chomut: Forging an inclusion in a city troubled by racism

Year: 2020 — Province: Ontario
Certificate of Achievement Recipient

Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School
Art, history, media, grades 9 to 12
Thunder Bay, Ontario

Greg helped create something that asked other people to become leaders in the community and they stepped up to make his students feel more welcome.

nominator

In a city with a troubled history of racism, Greg Chomut builds multiple bridges between his Indigenous students and the wider community. He organizes innovative classroom activities and runs diverse extra-curricular activities. Above and beyond all that, he regularly invites at-risk students to live with his family as they finish their education; all of the students who have lived with him have graduated.

Teaching approach

Greg focuses on giving his students confidence and helping them find their voices, whether they're making a painting, learning from Elders how to bead moccasins, recording a song with a Juno-winning act, or writing letters to politicians.

In the classroom

  • Promotes students' artistic expression through an after-school art club: student artworks are displayed in airports and were the backdrop for journalist and author Tanya Talaga's Massey Lectures; many students have sold pieces and now consider art as a career path.
  • Helps students earn college credits: art students became so proficient with digital tools, such as Adobe Creative Suite and Apple Final Cut, that Greg was able to set up a program with Confederation College that allows students to earn a college credit for their work.
  • Stages an annual full-school re-enactment of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, using paintball equipment: the demonstration includes an hour-long lesson on Ojibway sniper Francis Pegahmagabow, with the grandson of this highly decorated First World War soldier speaking to students.
  • Fosters political awareness: coordinates class visits by senators and members of Parliament; leads trips to Ottawa, where students meet politicians.

Outstanding achievements

  • Founded the Wake the Giant Music Festival: students perform alongside Indigenous and non-Indigenous acts, such as Wolf Saga and Metric, in what is one of Thunder Bay's largest festivals, designed to boost inclusivity and cross-cultural understanding.
  • Reaches out to local businesses: some 300 firms and organizations display decals noting they are inclusive spaces for Indigenous youth; a student said a decal made him more comfortable entering a counsellor's office; Greg organizes field trips to local businesses for hands-on activities, such as making gelato.
  • Developed program to help students navigate the city: older students work with new students during an "Amazing Race"-style orientation, as they learn how to travel to useful local organizations and services on city transit.

Get in touch!

Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School
315 Edward Street North
Thunder Bay ON  P7C 4P3

807-623-8914
sspenrath@nnec.on.ca
http://www.nnec.on.ca/index.php/dennis-franklin-cromarty-high-school/

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