RDC alumnus receives provincial award of excellence

Andrew Kooman’s anti-trafficking play also making national impact

A local author/playwright and Red Deer College alumnus has been honoured for his outstanding community contributions.

Andrew Kooman, currently enjoying tremendous success with his play about the battle against human trafficking called She Has A Name, was recognized last week by the Association of Alberta Colleges and Technical Institutes and the province.

Kooman received an Outstanding Alumnus Provincial Award Celebrating Excellence (PACE Award).

“To be honest, I was surprised by the nomination and I’m really grateful for the award,” he said. “As I reflected on receiving it, what is most significant about the award to me is in light of what I’ve learned from people in the places of extreme poverty, injustice and disease that I’ve visited.

“So many people globally long for an education because they know it is the door to a new life. To be recognized as an alumnus for having what so many only dream of – an education – is quite surreal.”

Kooman is a graduate of RDC’s Bachelor of Arts collaborative degree with the University of Calgary and the Multimedia Web Developer program. He currently works at RDC as a public relations consultant.

As part of the PACE Award, Kooman received a $5,000 scholarship bursary in his name which he has chosen to direct to Red Deer College’s Foundation, assisting students who demonstrate leadership, creativity and a commitment to helping people in need.

“It is an amazing honour that through this award I can be part of directing a bursary that will financially help future students at Red Deer College who demonstrate leadership and are committed to creativity and to helping others in need, things that I personally value,” he said. “It’s a way to affirm the importance of these qualities in students. So I’m really proud to be part of that in a small way.”

Kooman has also long been passionate about social issues such as the impact of war, poverty, and the AIDS pandemic, to name a few. This summer, his aforementioned play about human trafficking, She Has A Name, is touring Canada.

“Audiences continue to respond to the show emotionally. It’s resonating with them and captivating them as a work of art and their exposure to the nature of the issue is also challenging them and opening up some really great conversation.”

Kooman said the actors’ performances are incredibly moving and it’s not unusual for the cast to receive a standing ovation after the shows. It’s a true credit to their enormous talent, including the marvelous direction of Stephen Waldschmidt, he added.

“It’s been cool to get emails and notes from audience members who say they can’t get the story out of their heads and that the work really landed for them in a meaningful way.

“The biggest compliment to me is to receive feedback from people who are working on the front lines, doing the sort of work that Jason (Carl Kennedy) and Marta (Glenda Warkentin) do in the play. In Ottawa MP Joy Smith, Jamie McIntosh of International Justice Mission Canada, and Brian McConaghy of Ratanak International – three leading abolitionists in Canada – all strongly endorsed the play.”

The play was in Montreal last week, then Halifax, then London before it swings back through the Winnipeg Fringe to Calgary’s Fringe, then out west to the coast before it closes in Red Deer in October.

“My involvement in addressing issues like trafficking has simply been because I’ve learned about the true nature of it and as a human being feel I must respond,” he said. “The unthinkable but very real nature of such injustice compels me to do something – anything – to not only let others become aware so that they too are compelled to respond, but more importantly to, in some way, help real victims become real survivors.

“I’m more and more convinced that the most meaning any of us will have in our lives is to be part of one story of real redemption in the life of one person in real need,” he said. “Experiencing even a small piece of such transformation with others is truly motivating to me, and more and more I’m inspired to be part of those kinds of stories.”