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A group of Cree students recently graduated from the Iyeskuwiiu Springboard to DCS program at John Abbott College, marking the third and largest cohort to complete the year-long course. This collaboration between the Cree School Board and the college aims to prepare Cree students for post-secondary education by helping them acquire prerequisites that they may have missed in high school due to lack of resources. The program is primarily conducted online in the students’ home communities in the north, allowing them to stay with their families while learning more about their cultures and adjusting to the pace of higher education.

The course began with 20 students, some of whom overcame significant challenges to graduate. For example, 18-year-old Katie Gilpin from Wemindji gave birth while taking the course, leading to feelings of overwhelm and frustration as she juggled caring for her child during classes. Another student, 25-year-old Christina Pachano from Chisasibi, contemplated quitting at times due to the difficulty of the program. Despite these obstacles, both students ultimately completed the course and are considering their next steps in terms of further education. While Pachano hopes to save money before pursuing further studies in Montreal, efforts are being made by the Cree School Board to provide post-secondary options within the communities for students who wish to stay close to home.

One CSB official mentioned the possibility of offering programs in nursing or social sciences within the communities, providing more accessible options for students who may face financial or logistical challenges when considering higher education. This initiative aims to make post-secondary education more attainable for Indigenous students and to support their academic and personal growth. Valedictorian Christina Pachano expressed gratitude for the program, noting how it has boosted her confidence and prepared her for future academic endeavors. The successful completion of the program by this cohort of Cree students highlights their determination, resilience, and commitment to education.

Overall, the Iyeskuwiiu Springboard to DCS program is a valuable opportunity for Cree students to bridge the gap between high school and post-secondary education, equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in higher education. The collaboration between the Cree School Board and John Abbott College demonstrates a commitment to supporting Indigenous students in their academic journey. The graduation of the third cohort from this program signifies a significant milestone for both the students and the institutions involved, showcasing the potential for Indigenous students to excel in post-secondary education with the right resources and support. As efforts continue to expand post-secondary options within the communities, more Indigenous students will have the opportunity to pursue higher education close to home, contributing to the overall empowerment and success of Indigenous communities in Quebec.

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