Chris Paulson and Rachelle van Zanten, who were nominated by the Nechako Lakes Chapter (School District 91), were two of the recipients of this award, recognizing the time and expertise they have spent dedicating to the betterment of local students through the Spirit North program. (Submitted photo/Lakes District News)

Burns Lake residents’ dedication to B.C. students and school recognized

Couple awarded the BC Principals’ Vice-Principals’ Association’s annual award

Last week, the BC Principals’ & Vice-Principals’ Association (BCPVPA) recognized five groups and individuals who have made a substantial difference in the lives of students in B.C. public schools, of which two were from Burns Lake.

Chris Paulson and Rachelle van Zanten, who were nominated by the Nechako Lakes Chapter (School District 91), were two of the recipients of this award, recognizing the time and expertise they have spent dedicating to the betterment of local students through the Spirit North program.

“We are absolutely over the moon grateful to accept the BCPVPA award on behalf of our Spirit North Team,” said the duo.

Paulson has been volunteering in the community for over 40 years and van Zanten for the past 14 years. Both began their sports careers in their home town of Burns Lake and upon returning wanted to give back to the community.

Their journey started with supporting cross- country skiing at the local club, and extended to multiple activities for all schools in Burns Lake. In 2018, both Paulson and van Zanten joined the Spirit North team focusing their efforts on providing land-based sports opportunities to the indigenous children in the areas.

“Four years ago, we were blessed with the opportunity to provide land-based sports programs to the Indigenous Youth in our community. To be able to share our passion for cross country skiing, mountain biking, and paddling on the traditional unceded territory on which our family and community resides has been life changing. In exchange we have gained family, history, culture, and language from the members of our local Six Nations,” they said.

Since they started with the program, they have collaborated closely with school sites to establish and maintain a network of trails that can be accessed year-round for learning opportunities. They even commit several hours with a snowmobile to groom elementary school playgrounds to encourage cross-country ski excursions, and coach and support both students and teachers in cross-country skiing and mountain biking lessons.

All the 2022 recipients were honoured May 13 in a ceremony at the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond, B.C.

“It is such a pleasure for the BCPVPA to learn about what individuals and organizations in our province are doing to support their local public schools, and to be able to recognize those people who consistently go above and beyond,” said BCPVPA President, Darren Danyluk. “The recipients are generous in making sure that students have their basic needs met so that they are ready to learn when they are at school, and they also open doors to adventures and initiatives those students may not otherwise experience.”

In the true spirit of the award, Paulson and van Zanten recently collaborated with the district and Decker Lake Elementary, to construct a two-kilometer nature trail behind the school, for year-round access.