Program aims to develop more Indigenous teachers and 'leaders within our community'
'It's giving me a sense of being able to become something bigger'
A new program has been launched in Winnipeg to help more Indigenous students become teachers.
The Build From Within-Ozhitoon Onji Peenjiiee teacher development program officially launched Tuesday morning at St. John's High School.
The Winnipeg School Division has teamed up with the faculty of education at the University of Winnipeg and the charitable organization Indspire to deliver the program, which it calls "the first in Canada."
"It will help transition Indigenous students through high school and into university," said Pauline Clarke, CEO of the division.
"Our intention is clear — to provide the pathway and opportunities for Indigenous students within the division to become education leaders within our community," she said.
Organizers have been working for some time to recruit students from various high schools in the city. They will start taking education assistant training at the downtown Adult Education Centre in February.
Our intention is clear — to provide the pathway and opportunities for Indigenous students within the division to become education leaders within our community- Pauline Clarke
Student Cheyenne Moar called it a dream come true.
"To get accepted into this program, it's really like unbelievable, and it makes me really happy and proud of myself," she said. "Coming from the North End, lots of people really don't think that we could do it, but it's really inspiring and I'm proud."
Ayla Laforte is also over the moon to be part of the program.
"This means a lot to me, as I've always wanted to teach kids and be in a classroom for young people," she said.
"It's just amazing that I can do it all with it planned out, and have so much support from not only my peers, but also mentors."
The program will be offered to 30 students in 2019 and 30 more in 2020.
Starting in Grade 11, students work to earn an education assistant diploma while continuing to take high school courses.
They're scheduled to complete the education assistant diploma program by the first semester of Grade 12, then continue earning high school credits to graduate with a high school diploma and an education assistant diploma program certificate.
Program manager Shane Bostrom said that bridging from high school to university is a key component in the success of the program.
"After graduating high school and with their EADP certificate, the Build From Within students begin paid employment with Winnipeg School Division as half-time educational assistants while they begin their journey to complete their bachelor of arts and bachelor of education degrees," he said.
It's giving me a sense of pride and like, hope for my future, and it's making me more independent as a person- Cheyenne Moar
"Our primary goal is to build on Indigenous students' own strengths and experiences to create competent and motivated teachers who want to give back as teachers in the division they graduate from."
"It's giving me a sense of pride and like, hope for my future, and it's making me more independent as a person," said Moar.
"It's giving me a sense of being able to become something bigger."
It is hoped the program will also provide incentive for Indigenous students to stay in school. Data from the 2006 census says 44 per cent of all Indigenous people over age 15 did not have a high school diploma.
For students to qualify for Build From Within-Ozhitoon Onji Peenjiiee, they must be dedicated learners with excellent attendance, school participation, leadership and community involvement, said Clarke.