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Central Alberta student wins 2022 Orange Shirt Day design contest

Geraldine Catalbas’ design will be the official 2022 T-shirt design
Geraldine Catalba. (Photo submitted)

Grade 11 Ponoka student Geraldine Catalbas is sharing the message of “Every Child Matters” in a big way as this year’s winner of the official 2022 Orange Shirt Day design.

The contest was held by the Orange Shirt Society and Tolko Industries Ltd.

Catalbas said her design has two meanings: It’s in remembrance of the children who lost their lives in residential schools, and also celebrates the triumph of survivors as they overcome their past.

The design depicts shoes that represent the children who died in residential schools. The shoelaces coming off into an eagle represents their freedom up in the heavens and their fight through difficult times.

After seeing a memorial of children’s shoes placed on the steps of a church in Ermineskin, one of the Four Nations of Maskwacis, Catalbas wanted to learn more about what it meant.

She also decided to create the design to honour the parents and grandparents of her First Nations friends who are residential school survivors.

“They’re still fighting, they’re still strong and they’re changing and letting know about it,” said Catalbas.

“I need to make this special,” Catalbas said she told herself.

She submitted her design in the fall of 2021.Her design was chosen from entries submitted from across Canada, and she will receive a $200 prize.

Catalbas will be flown by sponsor Tolko Industries to meet Phyllis Webstad on Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30, 2022, to further discuss reconciliation and to recognize winning the contest (providing that travel is deemed safe because of COVID restrictions). Webstad, then six years old, had her orange shirt taken from her when she entered a residential school in 1973.

Annually, Indigenous and non-Indigenous children in kindergarten through Grade 12 across Canada can submit a design for the official Orange Shirt Day Contest.

All youth are encouraged to participated in the conversation by highlighting what the design means to them, for consideration by the society’s board of directors.

The Orange Shirt Society is a non-profit organization based in Williams Lake, B.C., where Orange Shirt Day began in 2013. The purposes of the society are to support residential school reconciliation; to create awareness of the individual, family, and community inter-generational impacts of residential schools through Orange Shirt Society activities; and to create awareness of the concept of “Every Child Matters.”

“We want Orange Shirt Day to be about the cause – the tragedy of residential schools and the ongoing intergenerational trauma many Indigenous Peoples experience. Supporting reconciliation is more than wearing an orange shirt,” said Melissa Lundy, program manager for the Orange Shirt Society in a press release.

“It is learning the truth, remembering the children who lost their lives, and supporting the future generations,” said Lundy.

Catalbas has been creating graphic art for about a year and says she enjoys it because she can express emotion through her art.

Being selected as the contest winner hasn’t really sunk it yet, she said.

“It feels like it hasn’t happened,” said Catalbas. “When you look at the bigger aspect of Canada and it’s going to be around Canada … it’s very shocking.”

Original artwork by Ponoka Grade 11 student Geraldine Catalbas. (Submitted)

Emily Jaycox

About the Author: Emily Jaycox

I'm a reporter for Ponoka News and have lived in Ponoka since 2015.
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