Sandy Lake’s Rhonda Goodman accepted the first Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Governing Council Medal of Excellence with her children by her side.
“I am just so honoured to receive that (Medal of Excellence),” said the Native early childhood education graduate during the Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education and Training Institute’s 2010 graduation ceremony June 18 in Thunder Bay.
“My heart is just singing right now. I am very happy at this moment for what I did.”
Goodman, who gave birth to her ninth child at the end of her first semester at Oshki-Pimache-O-Win, said all of her efforts to complete her studies were worth it.
“I just feel so happy that I realized that I owed it to myself to do this,” Goodman said. “The rewards are here now because I had such a struggling time.”
Goodman is planning to reach out to the children of her community now that she has graduated.
“I will strive to be helpful in my community,” Goodman said. “I feel I succeeded for my community because I did receive a lot of knowledge that will help my community and the children of my community.”
Goodman was one of 43 graduates who received diplomas and certificates jointly issued by Oshki-Pimache-O-Win and its program partners: Negahneewin College of Academic and Community Development, Confederation College and Cambrian College.
Twenty-nine graduates received diplomas and certificates from Oshki’s four accredited post-secondary programs while 14 other graduates received certificates in basic radiological technician and general educational development programs.
“The Governing Council is proud of our success in increasing the graduation rates of Aboriginal People who will become meaningfully engaged in the economies of their communities and Canada at large,” said Ken Neegan, acting chair of Oshki-Pimache-O-Win’s Governing Council.
Rosie Mosquito, executive director of Oshki, emphasized that Oshki-Pimache-O-Win is committed to the vision established by the chiefs of Nishnawbe Aski Nation of providing higher education and more education to the people of NAN as well as other learners from across the region.
“Our programs are available not only to the people of Nishnawbe Aski Nation,” Mosquito said.
She said Oshki-Pimache-O-Win’s student body currently has students from different communities across the region.
“We welcome others from outside the area, whether it is Treaty 3, whether it is the Union of Ontario Indians, also our non-Aboriginal people,” Mosquito said.
Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro congratulated the students, staff and teachers at Oshki-Pimache-O-Win for the successes they achieved.
“It has always been apparent to me, and I think more apparent to the graduates and the families in the room, of the necessity and importance of education in the world in which we live in today,” Mauro said.
“We no longer have the ability to view it as a luxury. In fact it has become a necessity.”
Helen Cromarty, who has worked in the health field for more than 40 years and is currently the special advisor for First Nations health care at the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, delivered the keynote address.
“In this day and age you are free, you are free to have your education in any way and form you want to have it,” Cromarty said.
“You are free to work wherever you want to, you are free to speak in any language that you want. Your own language, do not forget it. I had to relearn my language. I am still working at relearning my language. Residential school, you were not allowed to speak it.”
Cromarty said she has enjoyed her work in the health field over the years.
“My very first job in nursing was at the Sioux Lookout Indian Hospital,” Cromarty said.
“Now I’m back at the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre. That is my circle. Those of you who are graduating, you have to pick that up. You have to pick up and work with what we have prepared. There are a lot of people here in this room who have prepared the way. You have to pick it up.”
Goodman encouraged others to continue on with their education.
“I say do it,” Goodman said. “It is really hard at times, but if you believe in yourself and never mind what comes along, you can do this. You owe it to yourself.”
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