Niagara College president Dan Patterson signs the Indigenous Education Protocol for Colleges and Institutes as elder Stephen Paquette (right) and others look on at the opening of the College’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus Aboriginal Student Resource Centre on June 3 2015.
On June 3 Niagara College staff students and the community celebrated the grand opening of its Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus Aboriginal Student Resource Centre.
The event marked the opening of the first resource centre for Indigenous students at the College’s NOTL Campus following in the footsteps of a centre that has been open at the Welland Campus since 1992.
Run by Niagara College’s First Nations Metis and Inuit Student Services department the Centre aims to create a sense of community and place for Indigenous students at the College and enhance student life on campus – for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike. It is a dedicated space for elder teachings as well as cultural programming events and workshops and includes a library of Indigenous-themed books and resources a new study area and computers.
“Niagara College has a longstanding commitment to fostering leadership and development with the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students and to advancing the understanding of Aboriginal cultures heritage and languages within the College and broader communities” said Dan Patterson president of Niagara College.
“The Centre is a foundation piece for us in order to bring our Aboriginal students together in order to support them. It allows them make connections and have a support network in place support other Aboriginal learners and have an Aboriginal world view” said acting vice-president of Student Affairs Rick Anderson. “It also gives members of our staff a chance to connect with the students and share all the services we have available.”
NC’s Aboriginal liaison and recruitment manager Donna Gerber noted that the Centre will play a key role in providing Aboriginal students with a connection to their culture and in their student success.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is for students to have a safe cultural space. We can’t build community without it and community is key to student success” said Gerber.
During the event the College’s president signed the Indigenous Education Protocol for Colleges and Institutes. Launched in December 2014 the protocol is an aspirational document that supports the commitment of colleges and institutes to Indigenous education and provides a vision of how they can strive to improve their practices and better serve Indigenous peoples. CICan members representing 137 colleges institutes polytechnics and CEGYPS from across Canada are invited to sign and adopt its seven principles. For details about the protocol visit: https://www.collegesinstitutes.ca/Media Releases-centre/Media Releases-release/cican-launches-indigenous-education-protocol-for-colleges-and-institutes/
The official opening combined with the protocol signing made the event was particularly meaningful for graduating student Celeste Smith from the General arts and Science – Degree Transfer program who championed having a Centre open at the NOTL Campus.
“I feel totally supported as a student. I came here with a quest that I needed for my educational journey and they made it happen” she said. “This is what the protocol means in action: having the space for the community to be for us to learn about our culture to learn together to meet other Aboriginal students from across Canada to also bring other students in to say ‘this is my culture.’”
The event included a blessing of the space by Aboriginal elder Stephen Paquette a strawberry social and a tour of the College’s Aboriginal Garden – need the largest of its kind in Canada.
Niagara College offers more than 100 diploma bachelor degree and advanced level programs at campuses in Welland Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls; as well as more than 600 credit vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences advanced technology media applied health and community safety supported by unique learning enterprises in food wine beer horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit NiagaraCollege.ca.
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