CHRISTINA FRANGOU, FOR THE CALGARY HERALD
Alocal researcher known for his discovery of several celestial bodies is setting his sights on a goal closer to home: improving education for Canada’s aboriginal youth.
Rob Cardinal, a research associate at the University of Calgary, has launched a project to install telescopes in First Nations communities across the province.
He hopes The First Light Initiative will get kids interested in learning about science and technology.
At the same time, the telescopes will help kids connect to the stars, the sky and the natural world — all of which figure prominently in the cultural traditions and legends of Canada’s First Nations communities.
“This is a time when we talk a lot about reconciliation. If we can use these telescopes to get kids interested in their own education — well, for me, that’s a reconciliation with my own past.”
If anyone could convince kids that staying in school is worthwhile, it’s Cardinal. His own story is extraordinary.
He was adopted off the Siksika Nation reserve as an infant and raised by a single white mother in Edmonton and Rocky Mountain House. As a teen, he struggled with depression, racism, rage and, eventually, drug and alcohol abuse.
By Grade 12, he had dropped out of high school and was living on the streets. “I hit rock bottom when I was 19. I’d been drinking and doing drugs for a couple of years and I woke up on a sidewalk somewhere. I was getting sick and I had nowhere to go and no money.”
He called his mother and she told him to go to an addiction treatment centre.
And that’s what he did. It was a turning point for Cardinal. Over the next few years, he cleaned himself up, and found work and a steady girlfriend (who is now his wife of 23 years). He finished his high school education, earning terrific grades. His marks were so good he decided to go to university and specialize in astrophysics.
After finishing his degree, Cardinal developed special software that detects moving objects in the sky, such as asteroids. Using this software, Cardinal discovered two comets, both named after him, and one near-Earth asteroid.
His first comet discovery in 2008 sparked the idea for the First Light Initiative.
“I realized then that this recognition wasn’t just an honour — it was a responsibility. I would be looked up to as a role model, particularly among the aboriginal community, and I could not shirk that.”
He initially wanted to install a telescope on his home reserve at the Siksika Nation. But he received so much support for the project early on that he decided to aim bigger and put telescopes in First Nations communities throughout Alberta and, then, the rest of Canada.
This summer, Carlson and the board of directors officially launched The First Light Initiative and are now in the process of incorporating. They’ve already received one telescope by donation, which will likely be installed at the First Nations reserve in Eden Valley, near Longview.
The next major steps for the project are to secure funding and community support. The latter will be the bigger issue, says Cardinal. “Putting in the telescopes, buying the telescopes is the easy part. It’s the educational program that goes along with it, the support and networking that is much more significant.”
Cardinal is reaching out to First Nations elders who much month left at the end of the money? It’s good to be prudent because then you’ll have money for your goodies.
This week: You are still very involved with home, family and your domestic scene. Relations with siblings are warm except there could be a little explosion mid-week. (It’s tough to keep your shirt on when you have to get something off your chest.)
Gemini (May 21 -June 20) Today: Today you feel that God’s in Her heaven and all’s right with the world. You feel so happy, energetic and generous you’re ready to give everyone a hug. (Well, almost everyone.) Actually, this is the kind of day where you will get back whatever you give so you might want to think about that.
Sunday: You’re assertive today, which is why people will look to you for leadership. You might be eager to start something but you won’t be rash. You’ll do your homework and think things through carefully because you want a predictable outcome. (Good luck.)
This week: With Jupiter in your sign now for the first time since 2001, you are receiving all kinds of fortunate little goodies, favours from the universe and opportunities. Unexpected job offers might come your way this week. Cancer (June 21 -July 22) Today: You feel a deeper concern for the basics in life today. You will welcome discussions that are metaphysical or spiritually insightful, something beyond Capt. Marvel comic books. (Although “Holy Amazing!” Spider-Man and Batman comics do have their share of wisdom.
Sunday: This is an excellent day to do research, or background checks, or seek out solutions and answers to old problems. For one thing, you have the mental energy to follow through on your efforts. Plus you won’t mind doing routine work.
This week: Easy to be gracious and charming with others because fair Venus is in your sign right now. (Plus you look great.) However, mid-week a little cattle prod can pass onto kids some of the traditional stories about the night sky.
Marie Delorme, CEO of The Imagination Group, a private consulting firm specializing in aboriginal economic and business development, agrees.
“Before modern technology, people navigated not only by the physical world on earth but also the stars, and all stories emphasize our connection to all things, on land or in the sky.”
She says the telescopes will help engage kids with the world around them, which will translate into more interest in education and their community.
“This is an opportunity to really ignite an interest in indigenous children.”
Canada’s First Nations youth have dropout rates far over other Canadians. In 2006, 40 per cent of aboriginal people aged 20 to 24 did not have a high-school diploma, compared to 13 per cent among non-aboriginal Canadians. The dropout rate was even higher for First Nations living on reserves and for Inuit living in remote communities.
Capricorn (Dec. 22 — Jan. 19) Today: An easy day at work, for sure. Workrelated travel will please you. All your dealings with female customers or female co-workers will be particularly upbeat. You might do something that earns you a raise or some praise. It’s a good day.
You can be productive at work today. Whether you’re working in a paid job or just working for yourself at some task, you might be surprised at how much you’ll get done. You don’t like waste and you do like results for your efforts. That’s why you’ll keep slogging away today.
This week: Tread carefully. You feel intense about many situations, as you well know. Furthermore, your ambition is aroused and you’re very keen to get things done. This is why you won’t be happy when you have a clash with someone in authority. You’re very purposeful now and something or someone stands in your way.
Aquarius (Jan. 20 — Feb. 18) Today: This is a lovely day for sports events, romantic encounters, vacations, parties and playful times with children. Everyone is in a good mood because they feel particularly big-hearted to each other.
Sunday: Discussions about the care and education of children will be profitable today. Similarly, serious discussions, including long-range plans about sports, will also go well and no doubt create meaning- hits this planet provoking upsets with others, which means you will have to pull out stops to display grace under pressure. Leo (July 23 — Aug. 22) Today: This is a fabulous day to schmooze with others, especially in group situations. You will enjoy classes, casual meetings or large conferences. You will especially enjoy helping families and women friends.
Sunday: Someone older or more experienced might have excellent advice for you today. In fact, whatever they say might really energize you in some way; you might even want to compete with their results. People in a group might want to follow your lead.
This week: The sun, Mercury and the New Moon are in your sign this week. (It’s all about you, dahling.) This heavy Leo emphasis attracts people and favourable circumstances to you. However, your diplomatic skills will be tested mid-week. Virgo (Aug. 23 — Sept. 22)
Today: You will easily make a great impression on important people today or any authority figure — bosses, parents, teachers and VIPs. They will think you are the cat’s meow.
Sunday: For some reason, some personal details of your private life might be rather public today — perhaps financial matters. Quite likely, others will see how serious you are about your work and how hard you do work. (Surely this will stand you in good stead.)
This week: You’re still working behind the scenes. Relations with others, especially artistic friends, are rewarding. But beware! Watch out for an upsetting experience mid-week. Someone might tell you off or vice versa or the friendship could end. This could be a dispute about money or something you own. Libra (Sept. 23 — Oct. 22)
Today: This is a fabulous day to travel somewhere. You will be intrigued to see different places, especially if you can learn something new. People from different backgrounds and other cultures will fascinate you. Seek out discussions about philosophy, religion and profound subjects because you’ll enjoy them.
Sunday: This is a wonderful day to tackle a serious subject or study something because you have the mental energy plus the focus that you’ll need. An older teacher or gurulike figure might help you. Quite possibly, you will be perceived as the teacher to someone else. Who knows?
This week: Your popularity is strong now. Enjoy schmoozing and having a good time with others. Fair Venus is high in your chart paving the way for successful relations with authority figures. (You win on all counts.) However, your relationship with an authority figure will be shaky this week. Unexpected news might catch you off guard.
Scorpio (Oct. 23 -Nov. 21) Today: Others will be generous to you today so keep your pockets open. This is a great day to discuss how to share something or how to divide an inheritance or deal with insurance disputes. When the dust settles, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.
Sunday: This is an excellent day to tackle red-tape details about debt, taxes, insurance matters, inheritances, wills, estates — all that stuff. (So easy to put it off, isn’t it?) But today you feel up for it! Roll up your sleeves and begin because you will love clearing this away.
This week: The Sun continues to throw you in the limelight, which is why others notice you now. Discussions with authority figures are useful and friendly. Travel for pleasure still appeals. However, there is an accident-prone influence mid-week, so be careful.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22 — Dec. 21) Today: Relations with partners and close friends are especially upbeat and friendly today. It’s easy for everyone to be kind and supportive. Activities with clubs and groups will be spontaneously upbeat and welcoming.
Sunday: Discussions with partners and close friends (and possibly with groups) will be quite serious. People are concerned with long-range plans and future results. You don’t want pie-in-the-sky projections; they want practical facts and solid results.
This week: You still want to get outta Dodge because you need a change of scenery! Any escape will thrill you. But hey, if you can’t travel physically, you might travel through books and film. Do what you can to expand your horizons and your experience of life. This week surprises with debt, shared property, taxes, insurance matters and inheritances might occur. ful results for everyone concerned. People want to know what to expect.
This week: The Sun, Mercury and the New Moon all oppose your sign, which means your focus is totally on partnerships and close friendships. Naturally, the New Moon on Friday is a fabulous opportunity for you (the best all year) to think about how to improve your relationships. Pisces (Feb. 19 -March 20)
Today: This is a wonderful day for real-estate opportunities. (Truly!) It’s also a great day to entertain at home and enjoy good times with family members. People feel generous toward each other and everyone seems happy to share each other’s company.
Sunday: Make plans for house repairs or even for practical outcomes regarding a family member. People are in a relatively serious frame of mind, ready to sit down and discuss these things.
This week: You’re working to get better organized, which is good. In fact, the New Moon on Friday is the best time all year to make a big To Do list about how you can better organize your life, especially your work. This list might also include what you can do to improve your health.
Actress Viola Davis (1965) shares your birthday today. You have a strong desire to get to the bottom of things and reveal the truth. In fact, some of you are whistleblowers. You have insight into human nature and you’re not afraid to tackle huge projects and put them in perspective.
Writer/former US Marine Anthony Swofford (1970) shares your birthday today. You have a natural sense of theatre and are quick to grasp the big picture. You live a busy life. You believe in the excellence of your craft; you also value tradition and time-honoured ways of doing things.
Astrophysicist Rob Cardinal is reaching out to First Nations elders who can pass onto kids some of the traditional stories about the night sky.