Aroland’s Edward Narcisse looks forward to completing his Ontario Secondary School Diploma through Fort William’s newly launched Niigaanaabda Adult Education Project.
“I just started but I’m very excited about it,” Narcisse says. “It sounds like a good opportunity to get an education and a Grade 12. I don’t know even what I’m going to do afterwards, but we’ll do that when we get there.”
Whitesand’s Ryan Kokokons says the Ontario Secondary School Diploma he is working towards through the Niigaanaabda Adult Education Project will provide him with more options in the future.
“I’ll be able to go a lot further a lot quicker through this program,” Kokokons says. “And I can work at my own pace, so I can be done as fast as I want to be done.”
Narcisse, Kokokons and about 10 other students are currently participating in the Niigaanaabda Adult Education Project, which is held from Monday to Thursday in a classroom at the Fort William Community Centre. About 32 students registered for the project, which includes OSSD course work, flexible scheduling, pre-employment/life skills workshops and on-going case management.
“The students are starting to come in,” says Vernon Ogima, project coordinator through the Margaret Anderson Foundation. “Tomorrow we will probably see more of them.”
Ogima says the students initially did assessments to see where they are with their education and their employment goals.
“What makes this concept unique is that we are inclusive to all who may have fallen through the cracks of the traditional education school system,” Ogima says. “Generally what is happening right now, is that individuals are being trained and cannot apply for the job because they do not have the proper prerequisites. It is our goal to motivate and ensure that the students are ready for the industry in which they want to be employed in.”
Ogima says the Niigaanaabda Adult Education Project was three years in the making.
“Now that we are back in Fort William, we get to run this project not as a pilot project but as a proven project that has some success,” Ogima says. “We were in Gull Bay before, we did some projects here in town and we did some projects out in the Robinson Treaty area.”
Julie Harmer, the Niigaanaabda Adult Education Project teacher, says the project has been “fantastic.”
“We’ve got nearly a dozen students who have started working on their Grade 12 and it’s been a busy hub,” Harmer says. “Some of them are working on Grade 9 and 10 credits, some of them are working on just the last couple of credits they need for graduation. We have some people who have come down just for some employment counselling.”
The Niigaanaabda Adult Education Project was launched by Fort William in partnership with the Margaret Anderson Foundation to provide adult learners with career planning, a Grade 12 education and pre-employment and life-skills workshops.
“We’re working on this not only for our young people but also people who dropped out of school a few years back or 10 or 15 or whatever it may be,” says Fort William Chief Peter Collins. “We’re trying to give people the opportunity to create a lifestyle that is positive for themselves (and) develop the opportunity to get their Grade 12 because in the working world nowadays, everybody looks for a Grade 12. This is a great partnership; I look forward to many more partnerships of this nature and hopefully we can develop a positive outcome for a lot of people in our communities.”
Niigaanaabda means we are all looking ahead.