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Students naming city's top citizens

A group of elementary students is coming up with what they think are the city's top citizens of the past century as Prince George nears its 100th anniversary.
Harwin elementary students Sierra Kivi, 12, Brenden Patenaude, 12, Kierra Johnson, 12, Matt Lybbert, 11 and Amanda Alcombrack, 11 are researching the top 15 citizens in Prince George History.

A group of elementary students is coming up with what they think are the city's top citizens of the past century as Prince George nears its 100th anniversary.

Grade 7 student Sierra Kivi said the project is important because it helps students understand their history.

"A lot of people aren't recognized for all they do for our community and it's important that they get to be recognized," she said.

Kivi goes to Harwin Elementary and participates in a district-led enrichment program called the Condors Pathway to Learning Project that also includes students from Ron Brent Elementary and Spruceland Traditional School.

Together the group of 14 students researched and came up with a long list of names, with the criteria that they lived in the city and, "they have to do something that makes Prince George better," she said.

Then they wrote the names on slips of paper and as a group voted until only 15 remained.

Kivi said she'd like to see more people her age show an interest in the Prince George's past.

"Really all I've been surprised about is how I haven't heard about them because a lot of them do a lot of things and it's crazy because nobody talks about them, or nobody that I know, does."

There's a range in ages, Kivi said, with people long deceased and some still active in the community. The list includes Carrie Jane Gray, first female mayor of Prince George (second in B.C.), and Dick Voneugen, a founding member of the Outdoor Ice Oval who is in the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.

Kivi said she's learned a lot about the city's history, mostly about its people, and places she's never been.

"Which is weird because I've been here my whole life," said Kivi, 12.

The group meets every week at Duchess Park and before the break, Kivi said the group was especially engrossed with the project.

"Usually when doing work it's loud and everyone's talking but when we started this it's really just been silent, nobody wants to talk to each other. Lots of them are fascinated by the stuff they find."

Kivi's classmate Kierra Johnson said the projects been a fun way to learn about research methods.

"You get more connected to the city, more connected to stuff around," said the 12-year-old, who said she liked sharing ideas with students from Ron Brent and Spruceland. "It's nice to meet other people from other schools that you normally wouldn't meet."

The girls' teacher, Thomas Skinner, who works at Harwin Elementary, came up with the concept after the students said they wanted to do something for the community.

"It's really cool to see the kids take an interest in their own community," he said, adding the students have really taken an interest in the project.

"When it's something they want to do, they're not satisfied with just a baseline of information."

Skinner said students talked to teachers and elders and even called up politicians. They used the Exploration Place website and dug through the Prince George Citizen of the Year archives.

An unexpected takeaway have been discussions about personal bias - especially when the students had to pick 15 names out of dozens of possible contenders.

One student thought his martial arts teacher deserved the high honour - so that prompted the discussion about how to think critically about their choices.

"Everyone has preconceived ideas so kind of realizing people have those can help you establish context a little faster in a conversation."

The Citizen will publish a full list of the students' choices in early March to time with the city's 100th anniversary.

In the meantime, send us your picks for the Prince George citizens of the century and why they should be on the list to We'll publish them with the student list on Thursday, March 5.

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