High school students at southern Alberta's Kainai Nation are getting the chance to learn business skills through a new program run by former prime minister Paul Martin's Aboriginal Education Initiative.
Students learn the skills of entrepreneurship and get an introduction to accounting, marketing and financial literacy through the program. For many, it's a scary experience — but they're OK with that.
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"It really pushed me out of my comfort zone," said 16-year-old Mckinley Russel, who pitched her T-shirt design business plan to the former prime minister and the president of a national bank in Tuesday's session. "I think that's a good thing."
The goal of the program is to get students excited about starting their own businesses and encourage them to finish high school or consider post-secondary studies.
Currently, one in three aboriginal people in Canada have not finished high school and the drop-out rate for students going to school in First Nations communities is 60 per cent.
For those in school outside of their communities, the rate drops to 43 per cent, which is still significantly higher than the Canadian average of 9.5 per cent.
"Indigenous people of this country have not had a reasonable shot at what this country has to offer, this country of huge wealth," said Martin. "They were not offered the same opportunities that we were and as a result, a great injustice was done for far too long.
"Those days are over now."