Students on quest to keep program alive

By: Tammy Rollie

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 08:33 am

Oilfields High School Quest student Kamala Knight skis at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park last winter. An enlarged canvas photo of this image will be given out as an incentive prize to a donor of the Quest Auction and Dinner.
Oilfields High School Quest student Kamala Knight skis at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park last winter. An enlarged canvas photo of this image will be given out as an incentive prize to a donor of the Quest Auction and Dinner.
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Twenty-five foothills area students are counting on the kindness of others to continue participating in a unique program that puts them in touch with nature.

Oilfields High School students, parents and staff are preparing for The Friends of Quest Education Foundation’s annual Quest Auction and Dinner on March 29 in Turner Valley’s Flare ‘n’ Derrick Community Hall to raise money for the school’s award-winning program.

The event raises $15,000 to $24,000 annually, covering half the cost to run the program, which engages Grades 10 to 12 students in weekly wilderness adventures, community service projects and outdoor expeditions throughout the year while pursuing their academic courses at their own pace.

Quest student Shayna Allbee said money raised at the fundraiser determines the type of trip she and her classmates can embark on.

“It distinguishes where we get to go on our year-end trip,” she said. “Last year we went to Nelson because we raised so much money and the Grade 10s went to Vancouver.”

The Grade 12 student has been involved with Quest since Grade 10 and said the program helped her establish successful learning strategies.

“Before I just kind of learned however the teacher told me, but now… I know that I learn best when I shut out everybody and there’s no music or anything,” she said. “If I was in the classroom I would have all the distractions.”

Grade 10 student Kodee Donaldson has a better understanding of math and English because of the Quest program.

“This program has helped me out a lot with overcoming certain problems and focusing more,” he said. “In a class I’d have trouble with my work falling very far behind and not being on hikes with everybody and not knowing any of my friends that I know now.”

The Quest program was developed by the Foothills School Division in 2010. In that same year it awarded the Ken Spencer Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.

Carol Gauzer, Oilfields High School staff member and Friends of Quest board member, said the program makes a big difference for students.

“They are learning huge skills like travelling in the wilderness safely, how to pack properly, what gear they need to have to survive,” she said. “It’s our backyard so we see the benefits in terms of kids just being able to get away and learn to appreciate the natural world. They are becoming quite competent in the wilderness.”

Gauzer said the program draws anywhere from 20 to 30 students each year with a diverse range in academic abilities.

Students tackle their academics at their own pace, with the assistance of teacher specialists, join their peers in their optional courses and venture into the outdoors once or twice a week to rock climb, kayak, hike, snowshoe and ski, she said.

“There has been recent research that kids aren’t getting connected to nature and that’s creating a deficit in terms of their wellness and their emotional well-being and physical fitness,” she said.

A $500 fee is charged to participants. The fundraiser subsidizes program costs such as equipment, transportation, rental fees, hiring trip guides and the fees, Gauzer said. The cost to operate the program ranges from $40,000 to $50,000 annually, she said.

The bulk of the proceeds come from the more than 100 silent and live auction items donated by businesses, organizations and individuals across the foothills and Calgary, she said.

This month’s auction items include vacation packages, sports memorabilia and tickets, artwork, a mini-electric quad, a round of golf at the D’Arcy Ranch Golf Club, tickets to the final Beneath the Arch Concert Series season concert and outdoor gear.

Quest students make their own contributions by donating service work or auction items and assisting with setup and tear down.

The fundraiser is attended by parents, staff and community members and includes a dinner, silent auction, live auction, power point presentation featuring Quest excursions and entertainment by the multi-genre foothills band The Alien Rebels and a dance.

Tickets cost $35 and must be purchased before March 21. To purchase a ticket or donate an auction item call 403-938-4973 or email


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