Geocaching was one of the fun activities for 45 Indigenous youth at the First Nation Natural Resource Youth Employment Program (FNNRYEP) and Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP) Science Week in Thunder Bay.
“You had to run around and use a GPS (global positioning system device) to find objectives,” says Kraig Boyce, a youth from Lac Seul. “We were the first ones back, and I can tell you we have been jogging a lot. We had a GPS that shows a flag pin on there, and that flag has to be within three metres of it. The furthest one away was number four, way down there by the volleyball courts.”
Jonah Tommy Fox, from Ignace, also enjoyed the geocaching activity, which was held at Lakehead University.
“It’s pretty quick if you get the specific locations and if the group is athletic enough to follow up,” Fox says. “I definitely like geocaching.”
In addition to geocaching, the youth also learned about cartography, sustainable energy and entrepreneurship, participated in field trips to local facilities and heard from guest speakers during Science Week, which was held at Lakehead University and Confederation College.
“I’ve been here for three years now,” says Gavin Eachum, a youth from Thunder Bay. “I ended up liking it really well, and I just got back from tree planting. It is a really good experience for the younger kids because they get to see what is going on around here (at the university) and at the college too, how different the two are.”
The FNNRYEP and OYEP programs provide youth with workplace training and certifications, field work, personal development and tours of education facilities and forestry and mining operations.
“These programs offer an important pathway for Indigenous youth to pursue postsecondary education and potentially to inspire a rewarding career,” says Bill Gregorash, program manager and professor in the Workforce Development division at Confederation College. “Through meaningful employment, participants improve skills and develop a strong work ethic, learning how to be self-sufficient. They also have the opportunity to explore many facets of the natural resources sector and earn industry certifications that may assist them in their future careers.”
Lisa Harris, coordinator of the Aboriginal Mentorship Program at Lakehead University, says the youth were “super excited” about Science Week.
“We did Indigenous cartography yesterday and spent some time with athletics,” Harris says. “They are going to do some water testing later this week and they are going to be doing a tour of some archeology sites around the city as well.”
The programs, based at Sandbar and Mink Lake summer camps, are a collaborative project between industry, the provincial government and Confederation College and Lakehead University.
“The opportunities offered through these programs can be life-changing,” says Sarah Ambroziak, program coordinator with Outland Camps. “We regularly witness participants achieving higher levels of self-confidence, becoming stronger leaders in their communities and developing positive and long-lasting relationships with their peers.”
Harris adds that the youth feel more comfortable on campus after participating in Science Week.
“Yesterday they did a social media tour,” Harris says. “They are given several pictures of things on campus and they are given a map and they have to sign into Facebook and find those places and take a selfie in each of those places.
It helps them to really find their way around campus, but you also see them asking people questions and really feeling comfortable and confident.”
The youth also receive two high school credits for completing the programs.
“It’s actually pretty fun,” Fox says. “In my free time I play some volleyball.”