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Don’t ever think it’s too late to go after what you want.

Seven months ago, Stephanie Paul of Eskasoni went after her GED after dropping out of high school thirteen years ago. 

Last September, the single mother of three enrolled in Unama’ki T.E.C’s Adult Program to pick up where she left off more than a decade ago. Four months later in December, she successfully completed the necessary General Educational Development tests. 

Stephanie confessed that while waiting for the test results to come back, she had little faith in herself. 

“I thought I might pass some,” said Stephanie. “But certainly not all.”

Stephanie ended up passing every subject. This allowed her to stay in the Adult Program at TEC and work toward another educational goal. With a GED under her belt in less than four months, Stephanie turned her focus to a university degree, something that was just a fleeting dream a month before.  

The road to where she is now hasn't been smooth. For years Stephanie feared crowds, and lacked confidence and self-esteem.

The worst part, she said, was when her children would struggle with their homework and she couldn’t help them. 

“I felt helpless,” said Stephanie. 

So after walking out the school’s doors more than a decade ago, she turned around and walked back in.

“I knew going back to school would help me stay sober, away from drugs, and save money.”

But even more so, she says she returned to school to better the life of her children by becoming a better mother.

She says that since she’s returned to school, her family has said she’s more positive and has more self-esteem.

“My family looks at me in a more positive way because I am doing something to better my life,” Stephanie smiles. 

She says she now worries less about what others think of her, and that her relationships with friends and family members have improved. 

Each year, Literacy Nova Scotia invites adult learners from across the province to write about their literacy journeys and submit these stories to the organization’s Adult Learners’ Week Contest. With encouragement from her teachers, Stephanie submitted her story. And she won. 

During the Adult Learners’ Week celebration in Halifax on April 4, Stephanie, alongside three other winners, presented her story to The Honourable Kelly Regan, Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. 

During a conversation with Stephanie the evening prior, she admitted that she felt nervous and afraid - the same feelings that had paralyzed her for years and kept her from returning to the classroom.

But this time, she had confidence on her side. 

With a shy smile, she nodded and said, “I’m nervous, yes.... but I’m excited, too.”

Stephanie is now taking two high school courses, Environmental Science 12 and English 12, two courses she hopes will help her future application to the Bachelor of Science, Environmental Studies program at Cape Breton University. 

She says she will always be grateful for the help and guidance of her teachers at Unama’ki T.E.C.

“I know now that age doesn’t matter. It’s never too late to return to school. This new light has deepened my appreciation of life and all it has to offer.”

On March 24 and 25, thirty-four teachers from MK schools received training on the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) by Pyramid Canada. PECS is an augmentative/alternative communication intervention package for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and related developmental disabilities. It teaches an individual to give a picture of an item to a “communicative partner” who honours the exchange. It teaches the discrimination of pictures and how to put them together in a sentence. 

MK Student Services Consultant Janean Marshall says through this session, teachers have learned how to refine their practices. 

“Teachers are interested in learning how they can use pictures within their lessons to increase attention spans, and develop both English and Mi’kmaw language skills.”

The PECS training, she says, allows educators to teach using prompting and reinforcement strategies that lead to independent communication. 

For more information on this training, visit http://www.pecs-canada.com/

An advisory committee of MK educators has translated seven Robert Munsch books into the Mi’kmaq language. The books will be distributed to students in every MK community.

 

The seven translated books are Thomas’ Snowsuit, Love You Forever, Mud Puddle, I Have To Go, I’m So Embarrassed, Andrew’s Loose Tooth, and A Promise is a Promise.

 

An advisory committee made up of Mi’kmaq language and literacy specialists from every MK community has worked on the translations for the past year, ensuring correct Mi’kmaq translation and that the messaging and presentation still properly represents Robert Munsch.

 

Janice Ciavaglia, MK Literacy Consultant, said they wanted to bring stories into the classroom that many students remember from their childhood.

 

MK Mi’kmaq Language Coordinator Blaire Gould agreed, but said the number of books published in Mi’kmaw was limited, especially children’s books.

 

“It’s important to make connections between English and Mi’kmaq when you’re young, and Robert Munsch’s iconic books jumped out at us as the perfect opportunity to build that bridge,” said Gould.

 

Along with the books, teachers will receive a lesson plan and a CD of the Mi’kmaq readings.

 

“Not all teachers in our schools are proficient in Mi’kmaq, but that shouldn’t stop our students from being able to learn in their language,” said Ciavaglia. “These readings and lesson plans will be a valuable resource for both teachers and students in the classroom for years to come.”

 

The project was funded through the Education Partnership Program and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey.

 

Eastern Woodland Publishing is publishing the five hundred copies of each book, as well as the 150 lesson plans. They will be distributed in May. 

 

 

Advisory committee members: Elizabeth Paul and Barbara Sylliboy (translators), Jane Meader, Phyllis Googoo, Josephine Peck, Maynard Marshall, Rosemary Marshall, Jacqueline Sullivan, Jackie Alex, Curtis Michael, Goldie Simon, Rose Meuse, Melanie Robinson, Yolanda Denny, Blaire Gould.

 

Lesson plan committee: Blaire Gould, Ann Landry, Brittany Fitzgerald, Angela Maloney, Kyla Bernard, Corinne Phillips, Janice Ciavaglia, Darlene Gillis, Ambrah MacNeil, Yolanda Denny, Jane Meader, Barbara Joe, Fran Young, Josephine Googoo. 

On March 10, 11 and 12, more than 80 Mi’kmaw junior high and high school students from 12 Mi’kmaw communities in Nova Scotia attended the inaugural Nova Scotia Aboriginal Youth Skilled Trades Fair at the Comfort Inn in Halifax. Over three days, students explored ten skilled trades and learned about their apprenticeship processes, and funding, education and training opportunities.

Students visited experiential skilled trades booths and spoke one-on-one with skilled tradespeople working in their respective fields. They learned about a typical workday on-the-job, and the necessary education and work experience that are required to launch a career.

Acadia First Nation Chief Deborah Robinson addressed the youth at the fair’s opening ceremonies, encouraging them to keep their eyes, ears, and minds open to every career possibility, and to take the time to network with others.

She stated Mi’kmaw are being more active and visible in our province’s economy, and that we need and want our people, now more than ever, to gain essential skills and give back to our communities.

“It’s our priority to equip our students with the right education, skills and training, so they can find good jobs, succeed in the workforce, and give back to their communities,” said Robinson. “This starts with giving junior high and high school students hands-on learning experiences, and access to information so they can make the right academic choices.”

Al Gould, a grade nine student at Eskasoni Middle School, said he was excited to learn that he could start getting his hours towards an electrician certification while in high school.

“My dad is an electrician and I’ve been watching and learning what he does since I was ten. I work with him in the summertime and I think it's what I'd like to do as a career.”

Ann Sylliboy, Post Secondary Consultant at MK, and a member of the organizing committee for the trades fair, thanked the students for showing an interest in their future, their economy, and their communities.

“It was wonderful to see so many students actively participating in the demonstrations and asking questions.”

The event was made possible by ENCANA, the Nova Scotia Assembly of Chiefs, Nova Scotia Department of Education and provincial schools, Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, Native Council of Nova Scotia, Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey and its schools, Mi’kmaq Project for Innovation and Collaboration, and Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office of Nova Scotia.

This week Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey celebrates 14 years of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw education success at its annual Community Strategic and Operational Planning Symposium. Approximately 100 First Nation education representatives will come together from March 5-7 at the Park Place Ramada in Dartmouth.

This year’s conference highlights and celebrates the importance and significant contributions of Mi’kmaw Elders to their community’s education system. The conference opens Wednesday with a keynote address by Eskasoni Elder Joe B. Marshall, an aboriginal veteran, role model, mentor, and esteemed leader on the leading edge of native rights initiatives for over 40 years.

Marshall was a driving force behind the creation of the Union of Nova Scotia Indians (UNSI) in 1969 in response to the Trudeau government’s White Paper advocating assimilation. He has been executive director of UNSI for nearly two decades and also acts as senior advisor to the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative in negotiations with the Province of Nova Scotia and Ottawa on aboriginal and treaty rights. Mr. Marshall retired as Associate Professor of Mi'kmaq Studies and Political Science from Cape Breton University in 2005. While at the university, he was instrumental in the formation of the Mi'kmaq College Institute and the creation of Mi'kmaq Studies as a disciplinary subject.

Marshall is an Order of Nova Scotia honouree and was presented with the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. Memorial Elder Award during the 2013 Halifax annual Treaty Day ceremony.

Delegates will continue to hear from Elders and their work across the province, including Dr. Albert and Dr. Murdena Marshall, a husband and wife team who have devoted their life to the promotion and preservation of Mi’kmaw spirituality, education, and science. The Marshalls are two founding members behind the research model known as “two-eyed seeing”, an approach that combines the strengths of both traditional scientific methods and Aboriginal ways of understanding health. In early December, the Canadian Institute of Health Research announced that a research team, led by Dr. Frederic Wien of Dalhousie University, had been awarded $446,396 over three years for a project called "Building a Social Policy Framework for the Health and Well-Being of Mi'kmaq Communities: A Two-Eyed Seeing Approach."

“Having our Elders as resource people in our classrooms gives students first hand knowledge of our culture, language and traditions,” says Eleanor Bernard, executive director of Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey. “This open communication of students and Elders builds strong relationships and enhances respect for our Elders.”

In October 2013, Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey announced that 87% of Mi’kmaw high school pupils graduated in the spring. More than 500 Mi’kmaq students were enrolled in post-secondary schools last year, up 25 per cent over 2011-12. Eighty-four graduated from universities or colleges.

For more information and detailed agenda, visit www.kinu.ca</p>

<p>MK’s Post-Secondary Consultant, Ann Sylliboy, successfully submitted a proposal to the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline Fund (M&amp;NP) and received $5,000 in funding.</p><p>The funding was used to support a High School Student Career Mapping Initiative pilot project in We’koqma’q and Annapolis Valley. Funding also supported a “Parents as Career Coaches” session in We’koqma’q, and meals and prizes at the Careers Nova Scotia book launch in Annapolis Valley.

Plans are underway to host a “Parents as Career Coaches” session in Annapolis Valley in the Spring. The remaining Career Nova Scotia books will be distributed to school support staff in all communities.</p>

We’re looking for communities to host this summer’s MK Reading Program. The program will run for six weeks. If interested, please contact Rebecca Scirocco-Paul at rebecca@kinu.ca or 902-567-0336.

On January 13, Grade 3/4 and 5/6 students at Pictou Landing First Nation School spent a morning learning what it’s like to be a marine biologist.

Scientists from the Mi’kmaw Conservation Group - Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq delivered a hands-on workshop. Students learned many interesting facts about lobster, and had the opportunity to learn about the health of a lobster by testing the lobster’s blood.

Thanks to MCG for a great learning experience!

On January 9, Pictou Landing First Nation School hosted a Writers In The Schools visit by local author Maureen Hull.

Maureen has authored such children’s books as Lobster Fishing on the Sea, The View From a Kite, Rainy Day with Bear, and WIld Cameron Women.

Organized by Grade 3/4 teacher, Kim Dorrington, and sponsored by the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, this day gave students the opportunity to meet a published author, hear her read from her work, and have them be mentored by Maureen in their own writing efforts.

The Writers Federations of Nova Scotia fosters creative writing in the Province of Nova Scotia; provides advice and assistance to writers at all stages of their careers; encourages greater public recognition of Nova Scotian writers and their achievements; and enhances the literary arts in our regional and national culture.

A note from Maureen:

“Thank you so much for inviting me to PLFN School. Thank you for being such wonderful listeners and entertaining speakers. I enjoyed our conversations very much and it was a pleasure to spend time with you. Wela’lioq.”

PLFN looks forward to the next visiting author on February 4, children’s author/illustrator, Richard Rudnicki.

If you attended the annual MK Sports Summit banquet this past November, you may remember a row of glossy, colourful posters lining the back wall of the room. These posters, ten in total, profiled each of the ten students from Shubenacadie Band participating in this year’s Summit.

A long-time vision of Education Director, Velvet Paul, the posters were created to recognize and honour the community’s students for their love and dedication to their respective sports. The ten posters featured a photo and favourite quote of Tasha MacKenzie, Kreshia Robinson-Paul, Chase Nicholas, Michael Sack Jr., Bryson Knockwood, Connor Dennis, Therin Nevin, Mile Willis, Roman Sack, and Cory Knockwood.

Paul says she approached the team at Eastern Woodland Publishing with her idea near the beginning of the year, and they immediately got to work.

“I wanted the posters to embody the spirit of the students and the theme “Dream, Believe, Achieve,” says Paul. “And I worked with Carol and Evangeline to make sure the posters reflected that.”

She says the First Nation communities need role models to inspire other students to know that if you believe in your dreams, you can achieve anything.

“Each of the students on the posters has played and represented our community on a provincial level,” says Paul. “It is important to celebrate what accomplishments our Mi’kmaq students are making.”

She said the final product was kept a secret until they arrived in Dartmouth at the Sports Summit, along with a Role Model award; and the reaction from students, teachers and parents when they saw them was a mix of proud smiles and tears.

“I have to say the students and parents were pretty tired of my constant phone calls,” jokes Paul. “But, once they saw the final product, I think they were very pleased.”

The posters are now hung in the main entrance to L’nu Sipuk Kina’muokuom, the Shubenacadie Band Office, and the community centre. Paul says they have received excellent feedback from everyone in the community, and beyond.

“People keep asking, “Who did these? Where can we get a copy?,” says Paul. “So, are we going to make these an annual project? Definitely.”

Velvet thanks the students for their continuous inspiration, and she hopes the project will be an inspiration to other communities to do the same.

 

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