Called Be-Dah-Bin Gamik or a 'place of new beginning', Conestoga’s Aboriginal Services office provides a variety of services for First Nations (both status and non-status), Metis and Inuit students. are Dedicated to helping students make a smooth transition to college life through support services, the group also provides an outreach program to connect with aboriginal students as they start to make decisions about post-secondary education.
Levi Johns participated in a youth program conducted by Aboriginal Services in his final two years of high school. Now in his first year of Business Foundations at Conestoga, he says that being a part of the youth program definitely helped influence his decision in choosing Conestoga.
"Being part of the youth group was a pretty strong factor in my decision," said Johns. "Having the [Aboriginal Services] office right there so I can stop in and say 'hi' or ask questions is a huge factor."
For visiting Elder Arnold Albert, of the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, connecting with aboriginal students is important from a cultural perspective. But Elder Albert also feels that making the connection is necessary to help students feel welcome at school.
"As elders we all share the responsibility of rearing the children," said Elder Albert. "We help them and make them feel not so lonesome. For some of them it's their first time away from home."
He also feels that making connections with youth through Aboriginal Services also helps prevent problems later.
"If a youth has no one to talk to, that's where trouble starts in society," he stated.
Aboriginal Services manager Myeengun Henry agreed that keeping students connected with their culture is a key to their success at college.
"We know that culture is a huge part in our students finding identity," said Henry. "Aboriginal Services goes to great lengths to figure out what helps our students thrive and stay in school."
For more information on Aboriginal Services and a calendar of events, visit their website.