Lac Seul’s Gina Wesley is considering a career in law after graduating from Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education and Training Institute’s Aboriginal Financial and Economic Planning program.
“It’s always been my dream ever since I was 12 years old,” Wesley said after the June 13 graduation ceremony at the Ka-Na-Chi-Hih Specialized Solvent Abuse Treatment Centre in Thunder Bay. “I’ve always wanted to go to law school.”
Wesley plans to take a year off before she begins her studies at university. She said the five-semester Aboriginal Financial and Economic Planning program, offered in partnership with Confederation College, was challenging.
“It was hard to cram in all the work into my work life and my personal life and my family life too,” Wesley said. “They were very flexible with the assignments because I had three kids and a full-time job.”
Wesley said her children are proud of her accomplishment, noting they now want to pursue postsecondary education as well.
“They want to go to high school and they want to graduate from college too,” Wesley said. “They want to go all the way now that I’ve gotten in.”
Wesley graduated along with Annette McPherson and Christine Thomas from the Aboriginal Financial and Economic Planning program while Geraldine Fournier, Diane Nowosad and Grace Whitehead graduated from the Social Services Worker — Native Specialization Diploma program, a five-semester program offered in partnership with Sault College.
“I’ve learned a lot from the field but my goal was also to learn from how they put it on the books,” said Whitehead, a family services worker with Tikinagan Child and Family Services in Webequie. “Most of my experience was from working with people.”
Whitehead enjoyed her studies at Oshki-Pimache-O-Win.
“It’s a very welcoming environment,” Whitehead said. “I’m glad I was one of the Oshki students.”
Evelyn Kataquapit, Susan Kwiash and Georgina Moquano graduated from the Basic Radiology Technician Program; Caitlyn Carpenter, Edith Fiddler, Walter Jonasson, Catherine Morris, Mike Morris and Colette Thibodeau graduated from the Chemical Addictions Worker Program and Lillian Anderson, Lorraine Anderson, Chelsea Chapman, Jennifer Fiddler, Marci Louttit, Francesca Taylor and Vanessa Thomas graduated from the Personal Support Worker Program.
“It’s awesome — I really enjoyed Oshki,” said Jennifer Fiddler, who lives in Sioux Lookout. “I recommend it to anybody who is trying to get their education and they live away. There is a lot of support, the staff is awesome and I probably wouldn’t have gotten through without all their support.”
Fiddler plans to continue her studies with nursing at Lakehead University, noting she has always wanted to be a nurse since she was “a little girl.”
“I’ve already got approved and accepted; I’ve already got my funding set up, but I don’t know if I’m going to go this year,” Fiddler said. “My family is not ready to move, to relocate, so I might go ahead and do it next year.”
Fournier, who delivered the valedictorian address along with Whitehead for the Social Services Worker — Native Specialization Program, was presented with the Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Governing Council Award of Excellence by Fabian Batise, governing council chair, and Rosie Mosquito, executive director of Oshki-Pimache-O-Win.
“It’s beautiful; it’s hand crafted,” Fournier said. “It feels spectacular — it really is an honour to be recognized for your hard work and the sleepless nights.”
Batise commended Fournier for the 4.0 GPA (grade point average) she achieved throughout the Social Services Worker — Native Specialization Program.
Thomas delivered the valedictorian address for the Aboriginal Financial and Economic Planning Program and Bearskin Lake’s Ellen Moskotawaywenene, a 2011 graduate of the Social Services Worker — Native Specialization Program, delivered the keynote address.
“I want to acquire more knowledge, more training in the field of social work,” Moskotawaywenene said, noting she is currently enrolled in a bachelor of social work program through a Ryerson University-First Nations Technical Institute partnership. “We need to understand where we came from so that we can know where we are going as indigenous people.
Educating yourself is empowering yourself.”
Moskotawaywenene said the graduates have taken a step towards a promising future where they will take on new challenges.
“Your families, your communities will benefit from the commitment that you have shown,” Moskotawaywenene said. “Our communities need people like you — your education will benefit us all today and in the future to come.”
Extreme cold weather is part of life every winter on the James Bay coast. The cold was normal for my parents who were both born on the land during a time...