Nfld. & Labrador

Indigenous high schoolers to explore world of business with new Grenfell Campus program

A partnership with Cape Breton University is bringing a successful program to Corner Brook this fall, which gives Indigenous high schoolers a university experience.

Program started at Cape Breton University debuts in Corner Brook in November

Grenfell Campus will host the first of two conferences for Indigenous high school students this November as part of the program. (CBC)

Indigenous high school students from Newfoundland and Labrador will be able to take part in a free program this fall aimed to expose them to university business courses, thanks to a partnership between Grenfell Campus and Cape Breton University.

Grenfell Campus begins its first iteration of the In.Business program in late November, a program that has run at CBU since 2011, with some students from Newfoundland and Labrador having in the past travelled to Cape Breton to participate.

"The reason it's important for it to be here, in this province, is that the further away from the host university that students are, the less likely they are to participate," said Kelly Anne Butler, the program's manager at Grenfell Campus.

Grenfell's version will bring 20 Indigenous high schoolers to the university for a two-day conference. During that time, the students split into groups and pair up with an Indigenous mentor who has a business background. The teams then meet and work on business challenges and projects electronically until they reunite at Grenfell Campus in May for a second conference.

It's open to any Grade 10 to 12 Indigenous student in the province, and Butler said it will give many of those their first taste of post-secondary education.

"These students get to come... and see what a university campus looks like, have some experiences on the campus, and then consider whether they want to do some business courses in post-secondary," she said.

See a mentor, see yourself

A key aspect of the program, said Butler, is having Indigenous mentors lead the students and spend time with them.

"Any time a student can see someone from their similar background doing things, whether it's business … or anything, if you can see someone doing that, then you might see yourself doing it as well," she said.

It's just opening up their minds to realizing that business is everywhere.- Nina Kent

Grenfell Campus's student body is already more than 20 per cent Indigenous. Corner Brook itself is the headquarters of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation, with many of its members from Western newfoundland. 

Butler said highlighting the university's Indigenous connections to students across the province is important.

"When you're 15 years old, and 16 years old, sometimes your world is just everything that's immediately around you," she said.

"To be able to bring students here, and host this sort of program in Indigenous territory, with all Indigenous mentors, is totally appropriate for Grenfell Campus. I think it's fantastic, and I think it's important that students see that."

More than entrepreneurship

The program is jointly funded by CBU and Grenfell Campus, plus donations.

Twenty-five Indigenous students and mentors from Newfoundland and Labrador have taken part in past iterations of In.Business in Cape Breton, where its general manager stressed the program is about far more than creating your own business.

"It's not only entrepreneurship," said Nina Kent. In.Business covers aspects of financial literacy, budgeting, marketing and human resources, she said.

"A lot of the time, it's just opening up their minds to realizing that business is everywhere, and business and economic development will help communities grow, and so we need more educated and skilled young people."

Kelly Anne Butler is travelling to Natuashish and Sheshatshiu in October to encourage youth to apply to the program. (Submitted)

Kent said even if students don't go on to study business, they get real world skills out of it.

"This program really helps students get to that next level and be confident in themselves, when they find themselves in that transition from being dependent on their parents to more independence," she said.

Many high schools in Newfoundland and Labrador that have taken part in Cape Breton's program previously already have enrolment information for the Corner Brook version, and Butler plans to travel and spread the word further, including visiting schools in Sheshatshiu and Natuashish in October. There is no cost to students to participate.

Grenfell Campus has capped its program at 20 students per year, with funding in place for five years, and Butler hopes it will be able to continue past that point.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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