Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s Working Together for Student Success secondary school student orientation at Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay was a hit with students, including two Nibinamik students.
“It’s pretty awesome,” says Emily Diamond-Wapoose, a Grade 9 student at Hammarskjold High School. “(There was) a lot of free stuff.”
Hilary Oskineegish, a Grade 11 student at the Matawa Learning Centre, also enjoyed the free school supplies during the Sept. 12 orientation.
“I’ll try to make them useful during the year,” Oskineegish says. “I hope that everybody that is out here for school will be safe.”
NAN also held a secondary school student orientation on Sept. 1 at Pelican Falls First Nations High School in Sioux Lookout and has a third orientation scheduled for Timmins on Sept. 29.
“Our annual orientation sessions are a great way to pull together as a community to greet our students,” says Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox. “We thank everyone involved for their efforts to help our youth pursue their education in a welcoming and supportive environment. Student safety is first and foremost when it comes to the education of our youth so far away from home. We want to assure our students, their families and communities, that we are doing everything we can to improve safety and education outcomes.”
The Thunder Bay orientation featured information booths and representatives from many organizations and agencies in Thunder Bay.
“It’s very good to have all of our students back,” says Lydia Meekis, officer manager for Keewaytinook Okimakanak Secondary School Services (KOSSS). “I see them actually interacting with all of the booths that are here. I’m pretty impressed with the amount of booths and the services that are here. It’s really good to see.”
Meekis says KOSSS has experienced a “big drop” in student numbers this year.
“It’s evident that our parents are a little bit wary of sending their kids here and it’s totally understandable,” Meekis says.
The student orientation provided NAN students with an opportunity to interact with community leaders and to learn more about the services, activities and opportunities that are available in Thunder Bay.
“We’re just letting them know what services and resources are around Thunder Bay for them to be able to navigate and get the services that they need,” says William Campbell, distance education coordinator with WAHSA Distance Education. “The importance is of course the student safety that we’re focusing on this year for the students here in Thunder Bay.”
Robin Sutherland, Aboriginal transitions and clan advisor at Lakehead University’s Aboriginal and Cultural Support Services, says the orientation was “really busy.”
“Everyone here is kind of working together to let the students know what is available and going on in the city,” Sutherland says. “Lots of Indigenous students here in Thunder Bay are really interested in what we have to offer here at
Lakehead as well as elsewhere in the city. There’s lots of good stuff going on.”
Sutherland says Lakehead University will be hosting the annual Fall Harvest on Sept. 16 at the Sweat Lodge Site just west of the C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse on Oliver Road.
“We’re also looking for volunteers, so if you’re in high school, you could come out and volunteer and get some community hours,” Sutherland says.
Stan Legarde, Respect Initiative intern with the City of Thunder Bay, says it was fun meeting with the students throughout the orientation.
“The students have been engaging and pretty happy and enthusiastic to be here,” Legarde says. “They’re just like every other student with their likes and wants and their needs and their own personal style. And they’re bringing that all to this giant networking fair. I think it’s a good introduction to this transition they’re having in life and I just want them to be safe and I want them to feel safe.”
Post secondary students were previously welcomed to Thunder Bay during the fourth annual Maadaadizi Post Secondary Student Orientation on Sept. 9.