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St. James-Assiniboia School Division
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Honour 150 recognizes those that have given back to our community

February 18, 2021

In early 2020, Honour 150, presented by Canada Life, invited Manitobans to recognize people from across the province who give back to the community and enrich the places where we live, work, play, and come together in unity. We are delighted to announce that three members of our community have been recognized for their outstanding contributions and positive impact.Honouring150.jpg

Connie Newman 

​- Former Teacher and principal within the St. James-Assiniboia School Division

Connie-Newman-Picture.pngNewman started her career as a teacher and then became a principal, all within the St. James-Assiniboia School Division. She made countless connections with others while working in education and has maintained those relationships ever since.

Newman, who is often an advocate for others, says she utilizes her extensive list of connections to find help for those who need it. “I don’t think I’ve ever not connected with people in my whole life,” says Newman.

Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James) says Newman is undaunted and relentless in a very positive way. “This is not an exaggeration — every community needs a Connie Newman.”

Newman has volunteered with and continues to volunteer with too many organizations to name, including Assiniboia Youth Community Resource Centre, the St. James Assiniboia 55+ Centre, and the St. James-Assiniboia Parent Child Coalition.

“I’ve got a passion for community development — I used to have a passion for teenagers, and now I have one for old people,” she says.

Newman’s interest in intergenerational literacy is demonstrated through her continuous volunteer work.

Newman is currently working with Gillingham on moving the St. James Assiniboia 55+ Centre to the St. James Civic Centre. “Where many people would have given up after hitting roadblock after roadblock and such an extended timeline, Connie’s commitment to the community and her knowledge of the growing need for seniors has been unwavering. She will see this through to the end,” says Gillingham.

Deborah Einarson Woods

​- Head of the physical education department at Collège Sturgeon Heights Collegiate

Deb-Einarson-Woods-photo.pngAs an athlete, Deborah Einarson Woods was always at the top of her game, whether it was playing ringette in Canada and Russia, playing hockey with the University of Manitoba Bison, or claiming three first-place finishes at provincial bodybuilding championships.

As a coach and manager, Einarson Woods has guided dozens of teams in several sports. As an educator, she is head of the physical education department at Collège Sturgeon Heights Collegiate. And as a fundraiser, she has logged over 10,000 hours organizing charitable events and supporting families in her community.

The cornerstone of her many fundraising efforts is the November-long Amazing Race when teams must complete a set of fundraising tasks. The most successful groups go on to the annual Pros VS Joes competition, where these students compete in fun contests for a week against professional athletes and local celebrities.

“The last piece of the initiative is the Adopt-A-Family hamper program,” she explains. “Each hamper family is adopted by a team at the collegiate or a group in the community. This year, we raised over $25,000 and made 39 deluxe hampers for families throughout the St. James School Division.”

Einarson Woods also established the annual $1,000 Kienan LaFrance scholarship program to honour the first Sturgeon Husky football alumni to win a Grey Cup with a Canadian Football League team.

“Deb’s impact on the community has been enormous,” says Christine Hill, the co-worker at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate who nominated her for the Honour 150 distinction. “Her ongoing leadership, dedication and commitment are immeasurable.”

Tom Dercola

​- Former Teacher at St. James Colligate

Tom-Dercola-1.pngHe’s earned the nickname “Mr. SCJI”. That’s because Winnipeg’s Tom Dercola has a passion for teaching and helping others that never stopped when class was over.

Dercola, 73, said he always wanted to be a teacher. His passion for helping kids learn has earned him respect from students, parents, and staff. He’s formed close bonds with those he’s taught, as two of his former students are now his adopted sons. “I’m quite blessed that out of my teaching career, I have two sons and now several grandchildren,” he said.

His career at St. James Collegiate Institute (SCJI) spanned over 35 years. In that time, Dercola established multiple scholarships and implemented programs to aid in student’s involvement with community outreach.

For years Dercola took groups to read and to cook breakfast for underprivileged children. “The fact that my students could come away feeling like ‘hey, I’m a role model,’ that’s what was important to me,” he said.

At SJCI, Dercola spearheaded “The Wall of Success” – a board in the school that recognizes the achievements of students who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for scholarships or awards. “These students with lower grades are still trying their very hardest,” said Dercola. “They needed to be recognized.”

Dercola’s dedication to the betterment of the community hasn’t slowed down since his retirement. He has volunteered at many local organizations, including multi-year stints at Winnipeg Harvest and the Humane Society and was recently the president of CJNU-FM, a radio station that focuses on keeping senior communities supported and informed. With his love of animals and kids, he has established endowment funds to support education, animal welfare, nutrition programs and mental health initiatives.

Honourees will receive a commemorative medal, produced by Awards Canada who has incorporated copper salvaged from the Legislative Building. The award features a design created by Manitoba artist Takashi Iwasaki who drew inspiration from Manitoba’s prairie sky, rivers, villages, and farming roots. The medal is more than an award. It is a unique piece of art and a visual serenade to Manitoba.