Thunder Bay

Details released for new First Nations student centre

Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay has unveiled the details of a Student Living Centre to house youth coming from remote First Nations.

Organizers hope to see project completed in 2015

According to the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council and the Wasaya Group, the estimated cost of the Dennis Franklin Cromarty Student Living Centre — as seen on display here — is $15 million. Confederation College will lease the property for $1 a year. The goal is to complete the centre in 2015. The partners with Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in this project are: Wasaya Group, Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, Confederation College and the City of Thunder Bay. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay has unveiled more details of its plans for a Student Living Centre to house youth coming from remote First Nation communities.

The gymnasium in the school was packed on Wednesday as a couple of hundred students, along with invited dignitaries such as Mayor Keith Hobbs and Confederation College officials, celebrated the unveiling of the centre's design and location.

The building will be constructed on the grounds of the college, at a six-acre site at the corner of Edward and William Streets, not far from DFC high school.

"I think having this residence will help us provide that home away from home," said Norma Kejick, executive director of the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council. 

The Education Council and the Wasaya Group said they've been working very closely with Southeast Collegiate in Winnipeg, because it has a successful model similar to what's planned in Thunder Bay.

The centre will include accommodation for 150 students, as well as space for 50 families so they can visit and support students when needed. Transportation to the school will be provided. Officials said there will also be curfews and security features.

Currently, students from remote First Nations are billeted with host families across Thunder Bay while they attend DFC. 

"I think that the residence will be a lot ... safer," said Dakota Achneepineskum, a student at the school. 

The 17-year-old from Marten Falls First Nation lives with his grandparents while he is in Thunder Bay, but he has friends who live with "strangers." 

Achneepineskum said the Student Living Centre would be better.  "It'll be more students together so people won't be alone all the time."

Fundraising for the approximately $15 million project is expected to start immediately, with hopes the centre will be completed in 2015.

Confederation College is providing the six-acre site for the residence, through a 21-year lease at a cost of $1 a year. 

Jim Madder, president of the college, said it's important to support high school students coming from northern First Nations.

"All of those students are our future students as well," he said. "Anything that increases the success rate of DFC in regards to aboriginal students is great [for] the college."