A Blood Tribe man was honoured Friday for his tireless work on behalf of young people.
Jerry (J.J.) First Charger received the 2011 Henry Potts Open Heart Award from the Southwest Alberta Child and Family Services Authority.
The Open Heart Award was named for former authority board member Henry Potts for his life-long commitment to cross-cultural relationships.
The Open Heart Award is about love and respect for children, demonstrating and sharing cultural pride and dignity, fostering the spirit of positive change in cross-cultural relationships and nurturing harmony and understanding.
According to the Southwest Alberta Child and Family Services Authority, traits First Charger shares with Henry Potts, and other Open Heart Award recipients are pride in his culture, honesty, humility, diligence, courage and being non-judgmental.
First Charger, who is a native liaison counsellor for Westwind School Division, has set an example for young people and adults.
A Blood Tribe member, First Charger graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a bachelor of arts degree in Native American Studies.
First Charger is a youth mentor, family preservation worker, early childhood intervention worker and native awareness instructor.
First Charger works with students and their families by counselling, advising, mediating and advocating for each of them in the school system, bringing an increased awareness to the needs of the native student population.
First Charger runs the Soaring Eagles after school program in which he teaches young people drumming, dancing, flute and drama, and organizes performances.
The Soaring Eagles have performed at the Yates Theatre in Lethbridge, Carriage House Theatre in Cardston and local schools.
First Charger has arranged for native elders to attend school events, organized Treaty 7 assemblies and smudging ceremonies, and his lunch-hour drum groups’ appeals to male, female, native and non-native students alike.
First Charger teaches personal development courses to inmates at the Lethbridge Correctional Centre as a native release planning instructor.
First Charger, who with his wife Meghan has a young family, shares First Nations’ tradition through hoop dancing, singing, drumming and playing the flute.
An expert hoop Dancer, First Charger dances annually at the Yates Theatre for the World Dance Explosion show.
First Charger has danced at events such as the reopening of the Galt Museum, the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay, the 2005 Special Olympics opening ceremonies, Canada Day celebrations and for visiting Chinese ambassadors.
First Charger formed the break dancing group One Heart Breakers and led a One Heart Theatre project.
Henry Potts was an RCMP officer and a leader on the Piikani Nation who started hockey, baseball and boxing programs for young people.
Potts was a foster parent, a member of Blackfoot traditional societies and a volunteer who led by example, displaying a constant pride in his heritage, culture and First Nations way of life, sharing a vision of justice and equal opportunity, speaking the truth, and working hard.
Initiated in 2008, previous Open Heart Award recipients include Mary Ruth McDougall, Cheri Gilbert and the late Sandra Grier.