Ward 5 Trustee: "A melting pot of cultures"

With the new year bringing a new semester of school, newly elected school trustees are looking forward to getting to know the schools in their wards even better.

Dante Aviso grew up in the West End and decided to run for school trustee with the goal of giving back to the community and promoting under-represented cultures in Canadian curriculums.

One of the most unique things about ward five is the “melting pot” of cultures its schools host. Aviso proudly believes his riding to be one of the most diverse in the city: “We have immigrants coming from Ukraine and Somalia, Ethiopia, some West African countries,” says Aviso. “And there’s a good population of Filipinos, … East Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese.”

The schools in ward five include General Wolfe, Greenway, Isaac Brock, John M. King, Sister MacNamara, and the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre.

“Every school in ward five has unique needs, even though they’re like a few blocks away” says Aviso. “They don’t have generic needs for everyone, [they vary] depending on the demographics and needs of certain schools.”

Aviso describes himself as a literature advocate and an advocate for arts and culture in the communities he is part of. He is the artistic director of a Filipino choir that promotes Filipino art songs.

Having moved to Winnipeg from the Philippines when he was 17, Aviso attended Daniel McIntyre Collegiate and Red River and then Red River for post-secondary education. His positive experiences with these systems were major factors in his decision to run to become a school trustee, along with a desire to empower the people and community around him.

“I want people to be proactive in all the community civic issues,” says Aviso. “If they think they can run for public office, trustees, [or as] councilors, then they should go for it.”

Aviso has always been a driven individual. When Aviso moved to Winnipeg, in his grade 12 year, his teachers at Daniel McIntyre were surprised to find that his best and favorite subject was Canadian history.

“I was already reading farther about Indigenous suppression and all those kinds of things,” says Aviso. “My teachers would look at me and ask what books I was reading - I got five steps ahead of them, you know?”

Along with fellow West End school trustee Perla Javate, Aviso has hopes of further implementing Tagalog bilingual programs in more schools where Filipinos make up more of the student body than average. A Seven Oaks school, Arthur Wright, started a Tagalog bilingual program in 2018. In September of this year, Meadow West Elementary school will also start their own Tagalog bilingual program.

“About 45 percent of students in the Winnipeg School Division speak [a language] other than English,” says Aviso. “And from that 45 percent, 60 percent are Tagalog speakers.”

“Languages from a native tongue are important for kids because I want them to appreciate their heritage, their culture, and be able to communicate to their grandparents,” says Aviso. “There’s a chance that if they go to the Philippines, they’ll be able to communicate with their cousins and aunts, family or anybody else. It’s the same for [other underrepresented languages] because a lot of the time, when kids are born here, they tend to forget their mother tongue, their native tongue.”

Along with these bilingual programs, Aviso also wants to see schools in his ward consider offering classes on Filipino arts and culture.

“It’ll be open to everyone and help students to be culturally sensitive and be global citizens,” says Aviso. “So it’s not only open for Filipinos, but for non-Filipinos as well. I think it’s going to be a good one.”

Aviso is most excited to start engaging more with the schools in ward five: “I’m looking forward to even just visiting a classroom and reading books to kids,” says Aviso. “[As well as] interacting with parents and their concerns, students, and talking to teachers.”

“For teachers I would like to [start] hiring teachers… that would represent certain communities,” says Aviso. “There’s the coming of the Ukrainian refugees - so there should be an additional hiring of an educational assistant who can speak Ukrainian.”

Aviso also wants to see new Canadians who used to be teachers have less barriers to employment in those positions in Winnipeg, which he thinks would be beneficial to both the teachers and the student body of ward five.

If you are a resident of ward five and would like to get in touch with Dante, reach out to him through his email at daviso@wsd1.org.

Daniel McIntyre-Ridd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leaf