Courtesy: CMU/Twitter

CMU to host Indigenous transition program

"I see this program as a way of reconciliation," says Clairissa Kelly

WINNIPEG, MB---Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) will host and facilitate the first Peguis First Nation Post-secondary Indigenous Transition Program. Designed by the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC), the 10-month program aims to assist students in the transition from high school to post-secondary education, from the reserve to an urban setting.

With the support of the Peguis First Nation School Board, 19 students from Peguis First Nation are participating in the transition program, which began in August 2015. It is the first transition program in Manitoba to occur in Winnipeg, allowing students to fully experience city life. Eighteen of the students are living on CMU’s campus.

“It’s an honour for CMU to work in partnership with Peguis First Nation to make this program possible,” says CMU president Cheryl Pauls. “There is significant evidence that quality of academic and life learning can be correlated directly to quality of relationships students have with instructors and peers. The cohort model of this Transition Program builds on and strengthens the relational commitments of the CMU learning community.”

The transition program includes a combination of life skills training, an Indigenous cultural awareness component, as well as university courses accredited through CMU.

“Everything they learn in this program is going to be the skills they use in the future,” says Clairissa Kelly, program coordinator and student counsellor. “It’s about setting them up for success in the future.”

Drawing on the traditional Indigenous medicine wheel, the transition program offers support in four major areas: physical, social, mental and spiritual.

“I see this program as a way of reconciliation—an example of how reconciliation can be achieved between First Nations people and Canadian society,” says Kelly.

The transition program includes 15 credit hours of university courses: Introduction to Computers, Introduction to University, Academic Writing, and a two-part course on Indigenous Knowledge.

Each course has been developed from an Indigenous perspective and will be taught by instructors associated with the transition program. The courses are accredited by CMU and will operate according to CMU policies. Students will emerge with CMU credits that are transferable to other universities or to additional CMU programs.

“My goal at the end of the program is for students to have employment—part time or summer employment—or that they are attending post-secondary education,” says Kelly.

The idea for the program grew out of observations and experience that the transition from high school to university can be challenging for students, says Wayne Mason, who helped develop the transition program while working at MFNERC.

Moving away from their supportive home community, adjusting to life in Winnipeg, and differences between high school and university atmospheres can sometimes hinder students’ success, explains Mason.

“We need to make changes that will help our young people to succeed and overcome a lot of those negative aspects that may hold them back,” says Mason. “The transition program is needed and hopefully we can work ourselves out of transition programs when all students can go directly from high school to university or college.”

(From CMU press release: "CMU hosts Peguis First Nation Post-secondary Indigenous Transition Program" -- September 23, 2015).

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