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How Cambrian College is working to bring Indigenous learners to college lifeOUS News

A program at Cambrian College aims to help Indigenous students transition into college life a little more smoothly.

The four-week, free, full-time program uses traditional indigenous knowledge to teach students how to cope and build confidence.

The program is part of a three-year-long research program funded by the National Science and Engineering Council of Canada through its College and Community Social Innovation Fund.

Janice Clark is the Dean for the Schools of Justice, Community Services and General Studies. She said the school applied for funding in 2019.

The idea for the program emerged from several recruiting trips to communities along the James Bay Coast.

A recent group from Cambrian College’s Indigenous Transition Program with initiative coordinator James Tregoning. (Submitted by Janice Clark)

Clark said elders and other members of the community voiced the need for transitional programming to help Indigenous learners gain confidence and feel encouraged to move on to post-secondary education.

“We often found that students, they would come from a northern community or, you know, a more rural community and they would probably stay for two or three weeks and then they would return to their community. They would withdraw from their community. Program, Clarke said.

He said research has shown that large numbers of Indigenous students, in particular, experience stress when starting post-secondary studies as a result of relocation and loss of ties with family and community.

learning from the medicine wheel

Nearly 42 Indigenous learners have taken part in the programming since it was first launched in August 2021, with many participants from the past year returning to serve as mentors for the new group.

During the program, participants are taught about the principles of the Medicine Wheel and how they can be used to start a new chapter while remaining rooted in indigenous culture.

James Tregoning is the program coordinator. Ultimately, a key objective of the program is information gathering so that other institutions can implement similar initiatives to better serve their indigenous students, he said.

“The colleges here in Post-Secondary Institute, Ontario, have reached out to me to provide me with the indigenous self-care model that I built here for the college, for this particular program,” he said.

“Even the University of Phoenix and the University of New Mexico have called and asked me to facilitate workshops for their specialty workers and students.”

The research program is set to conclude next year, at which time the researchers will analyze the collected data and make it available to other institutions interested in building similar initiatives.