PHOTOS: South Surrey students host inclusion-centred film fest

Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo member Alexa Lehwald and Tara Wall of UNITI present at the film festival. (Contributed photo)Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo member Alexa Lehwald and Tara Wall of UNITI present at the film festival. (Contributed photo)
HT Thrift Elementary students hosted an Equally Empowered Film Festival Thursday (April 28, 2022). (Contributed photo)HT Thrift Elementary students hosted an Equally Empowered Film Festival Thursday (April 28, 2022). (Contributed photo)
Alexa Lehwald, a member of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo, and SFU professor Dr. Kathleen Burke stand by a poster made by H.T. Thrift Elementary Grade 7’s for the UNITI film ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities,’ shown during the school’s Equally Empowered Film Festival. (Contributed photo)Alexa Lehwald, a member of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo, and SFU professor Dr. Kathleen Burke stand by a poster made by H.T. Thrift Elementary Grade 7’s for the UNITI film ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities,’ shown during the school’s Equally Empowered Film Festival. (Contributed photo)
The Grade 7 Leadership class show their t-shirts for the film festival. (Contributed photo)The Grade 7 Leadership class show their t-shirts for the film festival. (Contributed photo)
Dr. Kathleen Burke from the SFU Beedie School of Business, and Stacey Kohler, of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo. (Contributed photo)Dr. Kathleen Burke from the SFU Beedie School of Business, and Stacey Kohler, of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo. (Contributed photo)
Jillian Glennie (Associate Director of Development at UNITI), Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke and UNITI CEO Doug Tennant at the April 28, 2022 Equally Empowered Film Festival. (Contributed photo)Jillian Glennie (Associate Director of Development at UNITI), Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke and UNITI CEO Doug Tennant at the April 28, 2022 Equally Empowered Film Festival. (Contributed photo)
H.T. Thrift leadership students Carter, Jono and Tristian with Alexa Lehwald, during preparation for the film festival. (Contributed photo)H.T. Thrift leadership students Carter, Jono and Tristian with Alexa Lehwald, during preparation for the film festival. (Contributed photo)
White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker and Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo member Alexa Lehwald at the film festival. (Contributed photo)White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker and Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo member Alexa Lehwald at the film festival. (Contributed photo)
From left, Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo member Stacey Kohler and UNITI’s Marjorie Cenezero and Catherine Grimme pose for a photo at the film festival. (Contributed photo)From left, Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo member Stacey Kohler and UNITI’s Marjorie Cenezero and Catherine Grimme pose for a photo at the film festival. (Contributed photo)
Cruz, Mr. Sawatzky, and Tristan of the H.T. Thrift Elementary leadership class. (Contributed photo)Cruz, Mr. Sawatzky, and Tristan of the H.T. Thrift Elementary leadership class. (Contributed photo)
Alexa Lehwald, a member of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo, and and UNITI’s Tara Wall stand by a poster made by grade 7’s for the UNITI film ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities.’ (Contributed photo)Alexa Lehwald, a member of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo, and and UNITI’s Tara Wall stand by a poster made by grade 7’s for the UNITI film ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities.’ (Contributed photo)
H.T. Thrift leadership students Cruz, Carter and Tristian with Alexa Lehwald, during preparation for the film festival. (Contributed photo)H.T. Thrift leadership students Cruz, Carter and Tristian with Alexa Lehwald, during preparation for the film festival. (Contributed photo)

A film festival hosted this week by South Surrey elementary students aiming to become more inclusive leaders was “a great success,” officials say.

The Equally Empowered Film Festival – an invite-only event held Thursday (April 28) at H.T. Thrift Elementary – was the culmination of Grade 7 students working throughout the school year with Tara Wall of UNITI’s community development committee and Alexa Lehwald, a member of the Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo, an organization whose members all identify as having a disability, who work to make changes through positive relationships.

READ ALSO: Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo issue video appeals amid pandemic concerns

“The 17 students on the Leadership Team helped choose meaningful films that could be viewed at a small film festival in their school gym,” Wall explained.

“Films were viewed, discussed, rated and voted on carefully. These students have been planning everything from roles, design, speeches, marketing and more with full support of their amazing teachers Mr. Sawatzky and Ms. Ordeman.”

Films ultimately chosen for the festival included I Love Grilled Cheese and International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The fruits of the students’ efforts were screened for their younger peers, as well as a host of dignitaries, from White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker and UNITI CEO Doug Tennant, to Dr. Kathleen Burke from the SFU Beedie School of Business and Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke.

Wall, in promoting the event, lauded the collaboration with the school and its “incredible” Grade 7 teachers.

“The way they support the student learning and add to the vision has been appreciated. Their hard work and investment in this project have not gone unnoticed,” she said.

As well, “as the experience has unfolded, new ideas and understandings have grown immensely amongst student leaders.”

Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo member Alexa Lehwald said she liked the project “because they want to make the community better and inclusion is important because everyone can come together and feel happy.”

Her group’s Equally Empowered initiative shares “positive messaging on how all people can: self-advocated (stand up for themselves), help their community, and help others.”

Its concept came from Semiahmoo House Society summer student Catherine Grimme, after she noticed a gap in education when it comes to the disability movement and the capabilities of people who have developmental disabilities.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Language matters, say Self Advocates of Semiahmoo, following Chilliwack trustee’s use of R-word

H.T. Thrift leadership students, in a letter to Peace Arch News, said their aim for the festival project was “to spread awareness about disabilities and other related topics.”

“We have been watching and discussing short films that highlight their victories, challenges and other additional films that empower people,” the letter continues.

“We believe holding a film festival will inform our fellow students and hopefully result in a dissemination of important topics.”



tholmes@peacearchnews.com
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