Dawn T Maracle: Making a Difference 20 years later
It is hard to believe that July, 2008 will mark the 20th Anniversary of support for Parent Action on Drugs’ Peer Education Program from the Masonic Foundation of Ontario. During this time, we have trained thousands of high school students in our two day workshops, and each time our instructors are thrilled to discover young people who are eager to learn, committed to teaching others and discovering a passion for helping that will stay with them in their professional careers and personal lives.
One such person is Dawn T Maracle. Dawn was a delegate at the kick-off ceremonies at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, where the successful “Nip Drugs in the Bud” campaign began its sponsorship of peer education throughout Ontario in 1988. She was chosen from Hastings County, where she had started a chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving the previous year. As a grade 10 student at Quinte Secondary School in Belleville, the trip to Toronto was one of her first experiences finding a “home” away from home. Being a part of our program “opened me up to a whole world outside of Hastings County,” she recently said from her home in Ottawa. “I was able to meet people who were like-minded and could show others that you didn’t need to smoke, drink or do drugs in high school to have a good time”. Dawn took her experience and was a peer educator with PAD’s program at her school for three years, getting teachers on board and organizing her fellow students to participate in the PAD training and deliver the program to their younger peers. One of her innovations was taking the program to students on her nearby reserve, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, where she is a Status Indian.
Dawn’s connection with PAD, peer education and the Masonic Foundation did not stop upon her graduation from high school. She has continued her commitment to combating substance abuse (particularly the misuse of tobacco), and applying the lessons learned from the PAD peer education program in her professional life. Dawn has studied Native Studies at Trent University, and Education at Queen’s University and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, and was grateful to the Masonic Foundation for the support of a bursary to help her continue with her studies along the way. She is now aiming to complete her Doctorate in adult education, with a specialization in Aboriginal and Adult Education, at OISE UT. She has worked as the Senior Research Policy Advisor for Cancer Care Ontario in the Aboriginal Cancer Care Unit and at the Assembly of First Nations, lectured in Germany, and taught part time at different Ontario universities.
“To me, the lesson from the peer education experience, has been to take responsibility for my own behaviour. The philosophy of the PAD program is parallel to my Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) ideals to be an active community member with caring, sharing, honesty and respect. For me, this means one of my lifetime goals is to help make the future better for the coming generations. We affect others by our decisions. It’s about helping to ground kids so they can learn who they are and realize they have the power to make things better, too.”
Now on the “mommy track” for the next year she has a new baby daughter, Oronnia, and is the step-mom to twin girls and a boy. Dawn also sees how to apply what she has learned with her children. “It's important to seize those teachable moments with your kids,” she says, referring to how children perceive those who are using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs, either in the media or within their own lives. She is also committed to giving her children a strong sense of their Mohawk heritage and the skills and knowledge to live their lives in balance.