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Okanagan College Creates Centre For Aboriginal Students

by NationTalk on September 7, 2009585 Views

For Immediate Release
September 4, 2009

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development
Okanagan College

SALMON ARM – Aboriginal students attending Okanagan College¹s Salmon Arm campus this fall have a new space that celebrates their heritage and provides access to a variety of support services, announced Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation George Abbott today.“It is great to see Okanagan College making Aboriginal students a priority,” said Minister Abbott. “Aboriginal gathering places like this are part of the Province’s strategy to achieve the commitments in the Transformative Change Accord. Together with post-secondary institutions and Aboriginal communities, we are working to close the gaps in education opportunities between Aboriginal people and other British Columbians.”

Minister Abbott, along with representatives of the Shuswap Tribal Council, Métis Nation BC and Okanagan College officials, celebrated the grand opening of the Aboriginal Student Centre at the Salmon Arm campus with a barbeque and tour of the new facility.
The Centre was made possible through a $253,000 grant from the Province last spring. The space evokes a kekuli – a pit house – ­ with its round construction, and a skylight where there would be an opening for smoke to escape the home.

“Our government remains committed to improving the quality of life and educational experiences of Aboriginal students,” said Advanced Education and Labour Market Development Minister Moira Stilwell. “Encouraging Aboriginal students to start, stay in and succeed in higher learning, with the help of special gathering places like these, ensures access to advanced education and training that is inclusive of all British Columbians.”

The official opening of the Aboriginal Student Centre means that each of Okanagan College’s four major campuses now have dedicated space available to Aboriginal students. The institution has mentors to help Aboriginal students, dedicated Aboriginal student recruiters and a host of other services that the students can access.

“We recognize that partnership with Aboriginal communities within the Okanagan and Shuswap regions is important,” explained Okanagan College Board of Governors Chair Janet Shaw. “That fact is reflected in our key directions, but more importantly, we see real evidence of it in our day-to-day activities, whether it is through enhanced facilities, new program developments, partnerships with individual bands and associations, or the success of Aboriginal students.”

“Education is a vehicle for enhancing the life and opportunities of individuals as well as a means to achieve collective goals. Métis education represents the opportunity not only to achieve economic renewal but also cultural renewal,” stated Métis Nation BC Minister of Education, Dave Hodgson.

To help fulfil the commitments in the Transformative Change Accord the Province launched the Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education Strategy in April 2007. Since 2007 the Province has invested $13.2 million over three years to create gathering places that reflect Aboriginal culture at public post-secondary institutions across the province.

-30-

Contact:

Maria Wilkie
Communications Director
Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
250 953-3211

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