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Matawa First Nations celebrate 46 adult learner graduates

Wednesday April 16, 2014
Rick Garrick/Wawatay News

Graduates from the Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services’ Aboriginal Skills Advancement Pilot Program toss their graduation caps following ceremonies. About 46 adult learners completed the program and graduated on April 4.

Eabametoong’s Danielle Baxter is aiming for a nursing career after graduating from Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services’ Aboriginal Skills Advancement Pilot Program.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl,” said Baxter, who is a single parent of a three-year-old son. “It’s never too late, keep going, follow your dream, never quit, keep moving. You can be anything you want to be.”

Aroland’s Leanne Gagnon is also considering a career in nursing after graduating from the program.

“I want to go to college, but I’m not sure which program I want to take,” Gagnon said. “I was thinking of nursing but I’m not positive on that yet.”

Gagnon and Baxter were two of about 46 KKETS adult learners who graduated on April 4 from the 10-month program, which offers academic upgrading, a high school diploma program and links to future career and employment goals.

“I hope more people take advantage of it,” Gagnon said. “There’s lots out there for everyone to do. You just have to take the next step and find it.”

Although Gagnon has a three-year-old daughter, she managed to complete the program with the help of her partner.

“It’s hard, yes, but they offer a lot of help,” Gagnon said about KKETS. “They pretty much covered everything, like child care, financial assistance, your rent. So it was really easy; it was awesome.”

Gagnon is proud that she is providing her daughter with a role model to follow on her future education path.

“She has so much to look up to now,” Gagnon said. “I want to be someone she can be proud of.”

KKETS’ goals for the program were to develop an educated and highly skilled workforce in the north and to structure attainable learning achievements geared to the learner for entry into the labour market or further post-secondary, apprenticeship trades or specialized training that is synchronized with the growth of the mining sector and other supportive industries.

“When an opportunity to improve the quality of our lives presents itself, our people take that opportunity,” said David Paul Achneepineskum, CEO of Matawa First Nation Management. “It is great to see 46 of our community members graduate and move on to more training. I believe the KKETS approach is going to help hundreds, possibly thousands, of First Nation members achieve a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.”

Neskantaga’s Tracey Wapoose enjoyed the learning environment in KKETS program.

“It made it feel like home,” said Wapoose, who is a single parent of four children. “I knew a lot of people and the teachers were awesome.”

Wapoose said her family’s schedule was “tough,” noting her youngest child was under two years old.

“My schedule was really squeezed in between my kids going to school and me going to school,” Wapoose said. “My baby is 20 months old and it was very hard sometimes having to look for a (baby) sitter, but nothing stopped me.”

Wapoose is aiming for a nursing career after she graduated from the program.

“I’m going to college first and then transferring to university afterwards,” Wapoose said. “My mom wanted to be a nurse and I like to help people.”

Nibinamik’s Elijah Sugarhead plans to get into the restaurant business after graduating from the program.

“I’m applying for college — my future goal is (to study) culinary,” Sugarhead said. “I want to start up a restaurant back on my reserve.”

KKETS was established by the Matawa First Nations to ensure its members receive the training and education they need to secure jobs and to capitalize on opportunities from the Ring of Fire developments.

“Ensuring our Matawa First Nation members have the education, training and skills to fully participate in today’s economy and labour market is integral to KKETS mission — to provide culturally appropriate opportunities for education, training and employment by providing professional advisory support services, relevant systems and programs to empower individuals to take initiative for change in their own lives,” said Elsie MacDonald, KKETS’ board member president. “The graduating students will now be ready for whatever comes their way whether it’s post-secondary, training or employment.

Acquiring a high school diploma is the start of a promising life for the student and also brings hope and inspiration to current and future generations to nurture and excel at their hopes and dreams.”

Sixty-three adult learners out of 101 participating students graduated with high school diplomas through the KKETS program.

“These great results prove that ASAPP is working and meets the needs of the individual learner in a culturally appropriate manner,” said Morris Wapoose, KKETS’ program manager. “It is KKETS anticipation to only see the number of adult high school graduates continue to increase for Matawa First Nations.”


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