Spark the Next Generation

Help us relaunch Wordfest’s Inspirational Speakers Program in 2022! Our unique series of in-person experiences connects Canada’s most compelling, generous authors with kids in Grades 5 to 12, a pivotal time for educating, inspiring, and activating the next generation. We are also honoured to make life-changing connections with the world’s leading Indigenous authors accessible to even more students and families through video and audio engagement.

Donate to Wordfest’s Legacy Fund and help seed programming innovation in future years of the Youth Program as well as other initiatives by Wordfest. For questions about making a contribution, please contact Everett Wilson, Director of Development and Audience Engagement at


Life-Changing Experiences

Wordfest™ can’t wait to bring back its signature high-impact, high-energy author experiences for youth. Over the past decade, we’ve connected more than 100,000 Calgary students with the world’s most inspiring speakers and authors, including Indigenous authors Cherie Dimaline, Bob Joseph, and Jesse Thistle; Olympic Gold Medalist & social justice activist Mark Tewksbury, NASA astronaut Dave Williams; Governor-General Literary Award-winning graphic novelists Mariko and Jillian Tamaki; and Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Omar El Akkad.

I was ecstatic to meet the man who was able to resuscitate my heart through his beautiful and riveting writing. Omar El Akkad gave us rare insights and pushed us to open our minds to the world beyond our cellphones. His words both on paper and in our ears held a magnitude of rich messages that every student at some point needs to hear.” –Grade 12 CBE student

Indigenous Voices Online Series

Throughout the pandemic, Wordfest has been capturing unforgettable insights about Indigenous teachings from authors from across Canada and from around the world. These recordings include voices from First Nations, Indigenous, and Metis communities, who are speaking directly to the next generation. Wordfest’s goal is allyship: to provide authenticated, engaging, curriculum-based Indigenous resources for teachers and parents, while showcasing, empowering and financially supporting Indigenous authors and creators. (Note: it costs approx. $4,500 to produce each author package.) The seed capital for this initiative came from the Calgary Foundation, with ongoing support from a family foundation. But this is only the beginning of what Wordfest can do to help facilitate truth, reconciliation and a shared new path forward.

I would love for Cherie Dimaline to visit. A fair number of our students’ families are on assisted living and are low income. In addition, we have an increased population of ELL students who are newcomers to Canada and are starting their lives fresh in Canada.” –CCSD teacher

Books in Schools

With donor support, we place copies of age-appropriate books by each featured author in our youth program in the libraries of Calgary junior and senior high schools. We believe strongly that providing equal access to books, ideas and world-class authors enables every child to envision their best selves.

Here is a Global News feature about Wordfest’s 2021 Black History Month initiative to enable Calgary students to actively participate in conversations about racism and inclusion during Black History Month. Because of our donors, we were able to donate books by four Black authors, including Calgary’s Cheryl Foggo, to Calgary junior and senior high schools.

“It makes the students want to do more, want to learn more.” –CCSD principal

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Keep the Momentum Going!

We just wrapped up an incredible spring season for Wordfest’s Youth Program! As part of LitCon, in partnership with the Calgary Public Library and the Calgary Board of Education, Wordfest presented a virtual session on “How to Spark Your Own Story.” More than 60 classrooms from schools across Calgary joined the interactive, online experience showcasing Indigenous creativity, featuring Christian Allaire, David A. Robertson, and Jen Storm.

In May, Grade 12 English students at Henry Wise Wood were visited by Omar El Akkad and Elamin Abelmahoud (author of the current bestseller Son of Elsewhere). 

The interview with the authors and the questions from the students was nothing short of inspiring.The amazing donation of a class set of What Strange Paradise to our English department was beyond generous and greatly appreciated.” –CBE teacher

Fuelled by your donations, copies of Lawrence Hill’s Beatrice and Croc Harry were sent to every junior-high school across Calgary. On Sept. 28, 750 students (made up of classes from across Calgary) will be able to attend an in-person show with this extraordinary author, including asking questions and having their group photos taken with Hill. Similar in-person experiences will be made available to Calgary students, again at no charge because of your generous support, on a regular basis moving forward.

“I want to extend my heartfelt thank you to Wordfest. The gesture is a truly kind and generous one in difficult financial times for public education and coming out of a global pandemic. Our students will love this addition to our library and we have been trying hard to diversify our collection with authors of various ethnicities. As well, our student population loves seeing themselves represented on the cover of books.” –CBE library assistant 

Continue This Calgary Story of
Innovative Youth Activation

Donate to Wordfest’s Legacy Fund and help seed programming innovation in future years of the Youth Program as well as other initiatives by Wordfest. For questions about making a contribution, please contact Everett Wilson, Director of Development and Audience Engagement at