Thursday, November 08, 2012

Mikmaw and Maliseet Youth get a taste of campus life at the Mount

Mount Saint Vincent University was delighted to host, in cooperation with the APC and the AHHRI,  a two-day conference for Aboriginal youth on October 12-13. John Sylliboy, who spearheaded planning for the conference, shares an account of the event in this month’s President’s blog.

Until next time,



Students are source of knowledge sharing

Let’s not forget why we are educators…it’s tapping into those emotions that provoke pride and motivation in making connections with students through learning.

John R. Sylliboy, AHHRI Coordinator, Mark de Jonge, Olympic
medalist and keynote speaker, and Alan Polchies Jr, St. Mary’s
First Nation Councillor/Facilitator

The Mount hosted more than 80 youth in grades 9-12 from ten Atlantic First Nations communities. They spent two days on campus with professors, guidance counselors, career specialists and volunteers to share career opportunities offered in post-secondary education. Smiles expressed satisfaction between Mount faculty and aboriginal youth in their mutual development of trust and sharing of knowledge. The theme of the conference Mawitaql Kjijtaqnn is the “gathering of knowledge” in Mi’kmaq, which was planned to coincide with Mount’s celebration of Mi’kmaq History Month in Nova Scotia.

Aboriginal youth displayed a keen interest in sharing who they are as: youth, Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, junior/high school students, individuals with dreams and aspirations. The Mount faculty welcomed their enthusiastic nature by taking on the challenge to motivate the young learners onto a path of post-secondary learning.

The university prepared a day of active learning by sharing various options for career paths through hands on approaches with workshops in science, nutrition, education and lifelong learning. Topics were diverse and youth oriented, while the professors were eager to capture the liveliest of attention spans and interests. One professor mentioned, “Students need to see post-secondary education as a means for higher learning that is both lively and full of hope; that professors are not just a bunch of talking heads”

On the last day of the conference, health career students and graduates shared their stories and experiences in university. They are mentors in areas of youth leadership, action and motivation. They all touched on the importance of Aboriginal health care providers working in First Nations communities. One grade 12 student bravely volunteered to be part of the panel to share why she would like to pursue nursing. This was an unexpected bonus for the audience and organizers. She announced that she would go into nursing next fall. She sent a message on twitter and facebook to express her delight and satisfaction after the event.

Universities and AHHRI in Atlantic Canada

The Mount and Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat (APC) partnered to host the Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative (AHHRI) Regional Knowledge Translation Forum on October 12-13th. They planned for months on protocols, cultural events, and curricula development for the workshops and presentations. The original plan was to host the students on campus during summer months when the residences weren’t occupied. After consultation with the First Nations education leaders, October was recommended because of the month long celebrations.

Wayne Morris, Wagmatcook School Principal is engaged
 with Mount Recruitment team.

The Forum was a platform to share AHHRI presentations on projects in partnership with Atlantic universities and colleges. First Nations representatives, faculties and post-secondary Aboriginal advisors attended presentations from Dalhousie, StFX, University of New Brunswick, University of PEI, Memorial University and College of North Atlantic. These institutions were funded through APC’s AHHRI program to develop pilot projects in their respective health programs.

Universities developed projects to include recruitment in nursing, Aboriginal health sciences, and bridging programs to support students in health programs. Best practices and successful programming were shared among peers that work in various capacities with Aboriginal post-secondary content, curriculum developers and faculty, or institutions interested in developing similar supports.

Cultural competency is one of the most important components for successful development of programs, especially in curriculum development. Universities are taking baby steps to include aboriginal perspectives, hiring of Aboriginal faculty and providing Aboriginal advisors as sustainable student supports. It is hoped that post-secondary institutions will continue sustaining programs long after the AHHRI sunsets in March 2015.

The Forum and Mount Saint Vincent University

In the opening remarks by Chief Deborah Robinson, Acadia First Nation, APC Co-Chair stated, “There is a need to improve the access, recruitment, retention and success in post-secondary education for our Aboriginal students.” Chief Robinson continued, “Aboriginal communities across Atlantic Canada need to be poised to take advantage of and support economic opportunities and the well-being of community members and post-secondary education has a key role in this effort.”

Perfect fall day for a Career Fair hosted by the Mount
with Atlantic First Nations youth.

The Mount has been en route in strengthening supports for the current 60 plus self-identified Aboriginal students within the institution. In the last two years, the Mount has taken considerable steps to outreach with the Mi’kmaw community. President Ramona Lumpkin invited Mi’kmaw educators and leaders to form an Advisory Committee for consultation following the advice of Elders. Mount’s efforts to build relations with the aboriginal community is part of the President’s vision to continue supporting capacity development within the institution and ensure quality education to all the diverse cultures represented in the student population.

AHHRI continues to build on the success of AHHRI programs and to strengthen the First Nations health care work force. Sharing knowledge and creating platforms for student awareness and participation will assist Aboriginal students, education directors and counselors. In fact, projects in the health programs provide a wealth of knowledge and experience – moldable for other faculties’ sciences and technological fields.

160 people walked away from the Forum feeling pretty optimistic that post-secondary education is laying solid foundations to meet Aboriginal educational needs for health programs in Atlantic Canada.  This is the first Atlantic conference on Aboriginal post-secondary education of this magnitude. It brought students, educators and administrators together under one roof. APC continues to celebrate successes in developing strategies to increase the numbers of Aboriginals in health careers. This partnership with the Mount is one of the successes.

Mount Saint Vincent University provided in kind supports for logistics, faculty resources, staff and volunteers to make the Forum a huge success. This commitment and partnership building with APC is in itself a best practice. It shows how post-secondary institutions can develop initiatives using their own resources, while being inclusive in the process. The Mount respected recommendations made by Elders and Mi’kmaw educators. Its efforts are genuine in its approach to First Nation consultation, inclusive decision making and active partnership building, which will only provide positive outcomes to improve education for its Aboriginal population.

The Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat has partnered with First Nations Inuit Health Branch – Health Canada and the Nunatsiavut Government to develop and promote AHHRI objectives through partnership building and funding with universities/colleges, First Nations and Inuit communities and Aboriginal organizations.

Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat is an advocate for speaking with one voice on behalf of First Nations communities. Through research and analysis, APCFNC develop and table policy alternatives for matters affecting First Nations communities in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Maine, USA. Its mandate is to “research, analyze and develop alternatives to federal policies that affect Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Innu and Passamaquoddy First Nations in the Atlantic region.”

For further information, please contact:

John R. Sylliboy, AHHRI Coordinator
Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat
Telephone: 902-435-8021

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