Aboriginal groups focus of college initiatives

7/8/2009 1:21:30 PM

College of the North Atlantic’s (CNA) Happy Valley-Goose Bay (HVGB) campus will ease the transition into post-secondary education for Aboriginal peoples with the introduction of an Aboriginal Bridging Program this September.

The program is one of three initiatives the campus is undertaking to assist Aboriginal students with their post-secondary experience. The others are an Aboriginal Resource Centre and the introduction of an Aboriginal Leadership Program. The bridging program was identified as a necessity for students entering the college with various holes to fill in their educational skill set.

“It is the result of a concept that was developed at the campus – there is a need for a bridging program with the school system,” says Winnie Montague, campus administrator. “Students coming in were having a hard time with math and other areas and we realized we really needed some type of bridging program to assist them.”

An opportunity became available through the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat who assisted the campus in their proposal development. After submitting the request to the Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative the campus was successful in acquiring $190,000 in funding for the program.

The pilot program will run from September to June and has a capacity for 16 students. Those who enroll in the program will study personal skills courses such as punctuality, time management and scheduling, but they will also be studying the customary mathematics and sciences (biology, chemistry and physics) courses.

“We’re going to seek the means to sustain the program after year one and hopefully after the pilot we will be able to implement it as a regular part of our programming,” says Montague. “Over time we’re hoping the numbers will show that students are having success with it and that it is worthwhile. The campus worked very closely with the aboriginal groups and they have had a lot of input. The elders have come in and the area’s culture is very much integrated into the program.”

The culturally oriented program will offer students the equivalent of four Comprehensive Arts & Sciences (CAS) course credits. After the one-year certificate program students can then transition into CAS.

To strengthen ties to the community the campus has hired an Aboriginal Resource Specialist. The position has assisted in moving the aboriginal initiatives forward. The aim of the Aboriginal Resource Centre will be to respond to the needs identified by current aboriginal students.

“Seventy-six percent of the campus’ population is aboriginal. We asked them, “What are some things you want to see done better?” The resource centre was one thing they noted, they needed a place to call their own,” explains Montague.

While the centre was a project that had been discussed for some time, it wasn’t until Montague and Paul Motty, another HVGB campus administrator, heard of an initiative developed by the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) that the project started to take form. They visited the UPEI facility while in Charlottetown and said it was doing an admirable job in meeting the needs of the student body.

“In following what has been a successful model at UPEI, we plan to incorporate a number of aspects of the Aboriginal community and how students interact within it,” says Motty. “Community elders will be invited to come in and speak with the group, there will be assistance with employment support, and these pieces will compliment the student development officers’ efforts.”

The centre will have information about the cultures in Labrador and also serve somewhat as a student lounge where they will have access to reference materials. The Labrador Friendship Centre currently provides information to students, but through a developed partnership they will have a resource centre to greater meet student needs.

The development of an Aboriginal Leadership Program will also tie into the success of these projects. Students enrolled in the leadership program will study areas that include aboriginal law & governance, leadership, financial skills, workplace correspondence and field placements. The program is currently utilizing some of the college’s Community Studies program curriculum while more than a half-dozen new courses are being developed for the program.

“We were successful in our request and now students can receive a nine-month certificate program for Aboriginal Leadership,” says Montague. “The main goal is to provide leadership skills to aboriginal communities. The program is built around leadership skills and positions but is geared to the community’s needs.

“It was a very positive setting with our team and the aboriginal groups and we had a very productive discussion. A common theme from all groups involved; the Innu, Inuit and the Métis, was the need for leadership training.”

The campus will begin delivering the leadership program in January or February of 2010, after it is formally approved by the college’s academic council in November.


For more information contact:

Roger Hulan
Communications Specialist
College of the North Atlantic
(709) 643-7938