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St. Charles to offer aboriginal pilot program

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Apr 30, 2014 - 11:47 AM |
 St. Charles College student Cheyenne Tobias shows her work to principal Patty Mardero and Education Minister Liz Sandals. Photo by Anastasia Rioux.

St. Charles College student Cheyenne Tobias shows her work to principal Patty Mardero and Education Minister Liz Sandals. Photo by Anastasia Rioux.

Initiative to teach entrepreneurship skills

Grade 10 St. Charles College student Trysten Walsh says she's looking forward to learning how to succeed in the business world through the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program.

St. Charles is one of 10 high schools in the province offering the $1.3 million pilot program starting next fall.


Through hands-on activities, the Grade 11 and 12 students will learn how to develop a business plan and create product- or service-based businesses. They will be mentored by established aboriginal business owners, and some students will get funding to start their own businesses.

“It's a very good opportunity,” said Walsh, adding that her participation will look good on post-secondary applications.

Minister of Education Liz Sandals was at St. Charles April 29 to announce the program. The funding also includes money for each participating school to start a specialist high skills major in business, so non-aboriginal students will benefit, too, she said.

Specialist high skills majors let students focus on a career path that matches their skills and interests, while meeting the requirements of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma.

When asked by reporters what will happen to the pilot program if an election is called this spring, Sandals said she can't guarantee it will continue if another party is elected. But she said it would be “silly” for a new government to cancel the initiative, as the specialist high skills major programs have increased graduation rates.

Rosella Bagnato, Sudbury Catholic District School Board superintendent of school effectiveness, said the board is thrilled to offer the pilot program.

“This was a very unique opportunity,” she said. “Not a lot of schools across the province have been chosen.”

In offering the program, the province is partnering with the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, an organization set up by former Prime Minister Paul Martin to improve educational outcomes for aboriginal Canadians.

Including the 10 schools offering the new pilot program, there will be 44 high schools offering the program as of this fall, said Carlana Lindeman, education program director with the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative.

The program was first offered eight years ago at a Thunder Bay high school where many First Nations students from remote northern communities were enrolled.

“We found the kids stayed in school,” Lindeman said. “They were more motivated. Their personal skill set really developed. Most of them went on to graduate from high school, which was thrilling for us.”

Participants have started small businesses in areas such as teaching native dancing and designing aboriginal-themed Barbie clothes.

“The kids are very, very creative,” she said.

Lindeman said the program teaches participants skills such as financial literacy, how to work in an adult environment and in a group.

She said her organization focuses on aboriginal students because they're the most at risk.

“They are the ones that have the least levels of education in Canada,” Lindeman said. “But they are the ones that are our future. They have the highest birth rate in Canada. That's the future employees and business owners in Canada.”
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer

@heidi_ulrichsen

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