Manitoba

Winnipeg students talk education and diversity with Barack Obama

Students from Maples Met School in Winnipeg are among a group of people who got the chance to meet former U.S. president Barack Obama ahead of his appearance at Bell MTS Place Monday night.

Students from Maples Met School invited to a VIP event with former U.S. president

Maples Met students discuss what they will say to the 44th U.S. president ahead of his speaking engagement in Winnipeg. (Julia Moran/CBC)

Students from Maples Met School in Winnipeg are among a group of people who got the chance to meet former U.S. president Barack Obama ahead of his appearance at Bell MTS Place Monday night. 

The students and their principal were invited to a VIP event by the Johnston Group and the Chamber of Commerce. They spoke with CBC ahead of their meeting.

"Getting to see him in person is mind boggling," said Armaandeep Dhanoa, Grade 9. 

Armaandeep Dhanoa wanted to talk to Barack Obama about diversity in politics. (Julia Moran/CBC)

Dhanoa has followed Obama since he was elected in 2012, for his second term. He said while running for student council he based some of his speeches on Obama's thoughts.

"I remember he said it doesn't matter where you come from or what race you are, anyone can succeed in America," said Dhanoa. "If you're willing to try and willing to believe in a brighter future, it doesn't matter who you are."

Dhanoa has been interested in politics his whole life and thinks Obama paved the way for diversity in the field.

"Even now in Canada, we have people who are not white and who are running for politics and getting elected," said Dhanoa. "I think times are changing and I think he was the trigger point in history to begin this change."

He's not the only one who feels this way. Karina Lawe, Grade 11, said Obama gives her hope.

Karina Lawe wanted to shake the former president's hand and tell Barack Obama he is an inspiration to her. (Julia Moran/CBC)

"Seeing someone, especially someone of colour, rise to the top the way he did and be such an amazing role model to so many people means a lot," she said. "I just want to let him know he's a big inspiration to me."

Alexis Bez, Grade 11, said she plans to ask the former president about parenting.

Grade 11 student, Alexis Bez at school ahead of meeting Barack Obama. (Julia Moran/CBC)

"I wanted to ask him about managing while being a father and also being the president of the United States," she said. "Both of those are huge jobs and insanely stressful."

Their principal Ben Carr shared his students excitement.  

"I think the kids are a little bit in dreamland still, just trying to make sense of the fact that they're going to have this opportunity," he said. 

Maples Met School principal Ben Carr tells CBC reporters about the value of hands-on education ahead of his students meeting the former U.S. president. (Julia Moran/CBC)

Carr said Johnston Group and the Chamber of Commerce are regular partners with the school. 

He said the Maples Met School is one of two "big picture learning" schools in all of Canada.  He said the model of education, which Obama advocated for during his presidency, uses project based hands-on learning to create a more personalized education experience for students.

"Here's somebody who, as president, spoke very powerfully about the meaningful impact that "big picture learning" have on kids and on the community," said Carr. 

Principal Carr said Obama is a personal hero of his. He just so happens to have a poster of Obama in his office, a portrait of the former president embellished with the word hope.

Carr was part of the group planning on meeting Obama ahead of the event. The plan was for them to then join seven other students and two other staff in the center of the front row to listen to Obama speak.

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