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Press Release – March 8 2006-Aboriginal Students

March 8, 2006

Article from RedWAY BC News – Harnessing Technology to Honour, Inform and Connect Urban Aboriginal Youth to Services, Opportunities, the Community and Each Other


(Picture: Valerie Dudoward and Kanani Nahanee, student at the College)

Metropolitan College Success for Aboriginal Students
Meet Kanani Nahanee – An Emerging Youth with Valerie Dudoward!
by Valerie Dudoward, Director, Aboriginal Education

Metropolitan Community College:  A Diverse Approach to Learning and Employment

Submitted by Valerie Dudoward, Director, Aboriginal Education for Metropolitan College

KANANI NAHANEE is a highly motivated 26-year-old student in the Counselling and Life Skills Coaching Diploma Program, a 40-week accelerated program that is the equivalent of two years regular studies, with a four-week practicum.

Her parents are very traditional, she was raised on the Mission Reserve near the Seabus in North Vancouver, and Kanani says that, “Metropolitan College instructors have encouraged and supported me in integrating my culture into all of the assignments, and in fact my intention is to work with aboriginal people.  In fact, I started my course on June 21, National Aboriginal Day 2005, and I graduate at the end of April 2006.  I have been a fancy dancer since I was six years old, I was employed before as a Youth Worker with Vancouver Native Housing in East Vancouver, and I am also interested in fashion designing, especially pow-wow regalia.”  Kanani says, “I was at a place where I just didn’t know what I wanted to do, and then when I worked in East Vancouver, I realized that I wanted to watch over the well-being of First Nations children—and more.”

There is a glowing determination about Kanani, in her verbal and non-verbal presentation.  She concludes, “The experience I’ve had myself is the reason I want to help aboriginal people overcome low self-efficacy and to come to realize their own talents and potentials…and just be the best that they can be!”

Metropolitan Community College is an accredited private college that offers excellent educational opportunities in both vocational and academic streams.  It is also a University of Cambridge (CIE) International Centre, and delivers Cambridge assessments and syllabi in different subject areas.  Instructors and advisors hold advanced qualifications in their respective fields. The College offers modular courses in small class sizes.
Several of the aboriginal students in attendance at Metropolitan College are graduates of the Bridging Program for Aboriginal Women, run by the college.  Nancy Drewitt, program coordinator/instructor, emphasizes, “It is the women who are the cause and source of their own success.  They come to the Bridging Program with many severe challenges and yet it is their dare to dream that is so inspirational.”  The 24-week program provides participants with an excellent opportunity for progression into the various diploma programs on offer at the college.

This very opportunity to ladder (on satisfying the admission requirements) into the mainstream diploma programs has been a welcome inspiration for success for the Bridging program participants.  The intake for the next Bridging program, which will run in March 2006, is now in progress.

Other student Success Stories:
DARLENE BLAIR is originally from Mamalilkulla, Village Island, and she attended St. Michael’s Residential School from the age of about 4 to 13 years old.  She says it was not a very pleasant experience, yet she is a proud survivor of a life of hardships faced and overcome.  Like many people who face down their demons and dragons, Darlene is remarkably optimistic, upbeat and a people lover.  She is also a student of the Counselling and Life Skills Coaching Diploma Program.   “I’m a people person”, beams Darlene.  “My special area of study is spousal abuse, and I myself am a survivor of a previous marriage in which my husband was very abusive.”

Darlene wishes to focus her post-studies activities in the aboriginal community when she completes the program August 31, 2006.  She has experience of almost a decade as a Life Skills Assistant with Vancouver Native Health Society in the Downtown Eastside.  She says, “I still maintain roots with my home community.  In fact, I went home in November to a potlatch.  I still haven’t managed to reconnect with all my family; I had 10 brothers and 3 sisters….but I am still trying. “

Darlene really enjoys the small class size, the reading and research, and the support of her husband, Richard.

RANDY GHOSTKEEPER is of the Cree Nation east of Chetwynd who received his aboriginal status when he was 27 years old, and he is 43 today.  Randy has been a certified cosmetologist for 20 years, and he celebrates 14 years of being clean and sober, 16 years of marriage, and a three-year-old baby daughter named Isabel.

Today Randy is a student in the Paralegal Diploma Program, and he says, as do all the aboriginal students now enrolled at Metropolitan College, that survival is due to a student loan.  He says, “After a lot of hard work by me, my band finally provided some funding for my education.  It has been financially very challenging to complete the Paralegal Program.  However, I came into this program as a mature open-minded student.”  Randy says the Indian Act has kept aboriginal people depressed and deprived in their own country.  “The Indian Act has to change big time,” he says.  The Paralegal Program is one that Randy expects to complete in June 2006, and he says more representation by aboriginal people is needed in Parliament in Ottawa, and there are still issues to fight with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

“We have to be in the canoe at the same time paddling together,” he concludes.  And he is especially thinking of his 7 sisters, 4 brothers, and 37 nieces and nephews and the protection and enhancement of their rights.

BERNICE LUCAS originally is from Hesquiaht First Nation, and she expects to complete her Accounting Management Diploma Program on August 4, 2006.  She radiates a quiet strength.  “I know I can do it, “she says.  “I was in the Bridging Employment Program for Aboriginal Women run by Metropolitan College.  I took out Student Loan funding for Accounting Management, because when I was on Social Assistance, they kept put me in courses I didn’t want to be in.”  Bernice says she went back to school for her Grade 12 and also completed several job clubs, but has been unable to sustain a job.  She believes this pattern will change because of her Accounting Management studies at Metropolitan Community College.

When I shared with Bernice that I would find an accounting or mathematics problem difficult at best, she looked at me with complete puzzlement.  It would certainly appear that Bernice has found her passion, and a very good means to support and assist her two children, a son 19 years old and a daughter 10 years old.  “My daughter is pretty proud of me,” says Bernice.  “I tell her that we live poorly financially for now, but that I will get a good job when this program is over.”    At this point, Bernice wants to concentrate on her studies, and focus later on her practicum and post-program goals.

FREDERICA ACOOSE of Kahkewistahaw in Saskatchewan is also a graduate of the Bridging Program for Aboriginal Women, and she then started the Paralegal Diploma Program in the late summer.

“I didn’t know anything about myself when I started in the Bridging Program—it was good to have an instructor who had overcome problems like the ones I was just beginning to find out I had.”  Frederica has four children, 3 in elementary school and a 2-1/2 year old baby.  She says her children are an inspiration for her to complete the Paralegal Program: “My kids appreciate me a lot.”

A major difficulty is, “Financially, it is very hard.  I am on a student loan.  However, I experience life with a big view and a huge view of the world every day.”  Her life became bad when she left her grandparents, the rain dance and sun dances, and moved to the city.  However, Frederica maintains healthy boundaries with her mother and sister.
“I love Metropolitan College, because it is a private college, and I can talk directly with any of the staff when I want to or need to.  This has been a very supportive learning environment.”  Frederica graduates in September 2006, and she wishes very much to work within some aspects of the aboriginal community.

If you are interested in any of the programs available at Metropolitan Community College, please feel free to contact them at either campus (Vancouver/Burnaby 604-520-9562) and their helpful staff will be more than happy to assist you.

Valerie is a Tsimshian Nation Member.

Metropolitan Community College is an accredited private college that offers excellent educational opportunities in both vocational and academic streams.  It is also a University of Cambridge (CIE) International Centre, and delivers Cambridge assessments and syllabi in different subject areas.  Instructors and advisors hold advanced qualifications in their respective fields. The College offers modular courses in small class sizes.

Personal Submission from Author, Valerie Dudoward, pictured with Kanani Nahanee

A few years ago I returned to a public college to secure credentials and certification regarding employment advisement and career counselling.  I have returned to school several times over the years, completing certification, training and education in such fields as community radio programming, conflict resolution, small business management and computer applications.

Life-long learning continues to be emphasized as an important value in today’s society.  Recently, I became the Director of Aboriginal Education for Metropolitan College, and I would like to share with your readers both the profiles and highlights of five of the aboriginal students, and the president of the College.  Their work has rekindled my own interest in education, and I applaud the efforts of these students and staff to achieve their dreams.

I also wish to honor, in particular, my late paternal grandfather Charles Dudoward, and my late father, James Dudoward Sr., both of Lax kw’alaams, who instilled in me a love of literature and learning.
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Editor’s Note: Great to see Valerie is doing well at the Metropolitan College – she and the late leader Bernie Whiteford hired me to work with Helping Spirit Lodge Society in the CHOICES Program for Aboriginal Women back in 2002. Keep up the great community Spirit, Valerie!