Shania Twain’s “bittersweet” visit to a Regina school | Video

The Regina Leader-Post <--Click for video
By Emma Graney
October 17, 2015

Brayden Nelson, left, accompanies Shania Twain, right, into a room for the launch of Shania Kids
Can Clubhouse at Judge Bryant School in Regina, Sask. on Saturday Oct. 17, 2015. Twain’s foundation
aims to supports children who suffer from poverty, disregard, and abuse.

Nine-year-old Rakia Kaiswauta declared Saturday one of the best days of her life.

As one of 20 students in Judge Bryant Elementary School’s Shania Kids Can program, the Grade 4 student got to meet the singer of one of her favourite songs — and couldn’t take her eyes off her.

Then Kaiswauta found out she and the other kids will go to Shania Twain’s concert Monday night at the Brandt Centre.

“Awesome,” they exclaimed, their eyes popping as they sat on the floor of a classroom in front of the woman who made the club possible.

Geared toward underprivileged kids, the program is a kind of last step before social services intervention. It provides before and after school support and activities, fresh food, life and personal skills training, and academic support.

Students also go on field trips and listen to vocational speakers; Twain saw Saturday’s visit with the kids as an extension of those two activities.

It’s no secret that Twain experienced a tough childhood herself. She sees the program as a way to “give back” and improve the lives of other kids who don’t have it easy, “in whatever way I can give back.”

For her, seeing the kids on Saturday was “bittersweet.”

“It does make me sad to know that this problem exists in this day and age, and it also makes me sad looking back at what I went through. But ... I’m also very excited and enthusiastic about what’s to come for them and what they’re now experiencing,” she said.

They’re “just primary-aged students,” she said, who shouldn’t “have to think about anything stressful” or experience anxieties as they’re trying to learn.

For program leader Tiffany Kearse, the difference in students since the program began in September has been “remarkable.”

One student who was struggling with reading turns up early each day, “like clockwork,” and the two read together for 20 minutes.

“His teacher just said to me last week it’s amazing how much his reading has improved in such a short time,” Kearse said.

Many of the students came to her “dejected,” “very shy” and “very ashamed of who they are and where they come from,” but being part of the Shania Kids Can Clubhouse has been “such a source and a sense of pride for them.”

“They tell everybody in the school that they’re involved in the program, they invite a friend and they’re the ones now who are the envy of all the students, because they are the ones who get to participate in the program.”

Shania Kids Can runs in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Regina — cities identified by the Dilawri Foundation, which has partnered with the program.

Twain said while she would “love to see the program in every school all over North America,” the current goal is to keep the existing programs going “as long as we can.”