Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
There were a few graduates at Brock University’s fall convocation this past weekend that stood out from the sea of students donning caps and gowns, and there was good reason for it.
Some of the first graduates from two Tecumseh Centre for Aboriginal Research and Education wore traditional regalia in place of the gown and hood.
President Jack Lightstone, in his speech, recognized the impact of a milestone occasion, and said that "at Brock University we acknowledge that we share this land with Aboriginal Peoples".
An honour song was offered by Philip Davis followed by an invocation by Elder Walter Cooke, commencing the convocation ceremony as nine students took their place in history as their programs first graduates.
The Gidayaamin Aboriginal Women’s Certificate program saw four students graduate, and program coordinator Jennifer Brant was beaming with pride upon the culmination of the students’ academic and personal journeys.
“It has been an honour to watch these four women become more confident in themselves and their abilities as students,” said Brant. “They worked incredibly hard despite significant challenges along the way and we are very proud of this resilient group of young women; we look forward to hearing about their continued success as they transition into new roles within both the university and Aboriginal community.”
The other program to welcome its first graduates was the Aboriginal Bachelor of Education program.
A five-year degree program, it is designed to serve the educational needs of Nishnawbe-Aski people in the Sioux Lookout District of northwestern Ontario.
“This community-based and culturally sensitive program is preparing Aboriginal teachers to prepare students to understand and celebrate their own culture while developing the skills needed to succeed in Canadian society,” said acting director of the Tecumseh Centre Julian Kitchen.
Marg Raynor, coordinator of the program as well as an instructor, was honoured to have worked with the program’s first five graduates.
“These graduates have persevered throughout five years to achieve their goal, despite many challenges,” said Raynor. “They have demonstrated personal strength and resilence and they have supported and encouraged each other – we look forward to their future roles in their schools and their communities.”
With the convocation now in the rear view mirror, the first graduates of these two programs will look ahead to their futures, equipped with the skills and knowledge to teach those who may one day follow in their footsteps, a true achievement recognized by Barry McLoughlin, the director of Lifelong Learning with the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council.
"The 'two-worlds' partnership between Northern Nishnawbe Education Council and the Tecumseh Centre for Aboriginal Research culminates in Brock University's graduation of culturally proficient Bachelor of Education degree holders," says McLoughlin. "Graduates, families and community leaders celebrate the individual student accomplishments and collective cultural strengthening of Ojibway, Oji-Cree and Cree schools across the northwestern Ontario region of Nishnawbe Aski Nation."