Métis students spend March Break learning about post-secondary education

At the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) Infinite Reach March Break Camp, the high school participants can hardly contain their excitement. During breaks and activities, they share stories and conversation with their old and new-found friends.

But, as the MNO Infinite Reach Facilitators, current upper year post-secondary students, take the floor to talk about their path to college and university, all the chatter fades.

“It’s an important aspect of the camp because the students gain more knowledge and insight into what it’s currently like in post-secondary school and the students seem to really crave that information,” said MNO Education Officer Alicia Blore. “The room will go silent when the Infinite Reach Facilitators start talking just because they are the role models, they have the information and they know best what they are experiencing currently.”

This year’s Infinite Reach Facilitators included Elijah Cadarette, Samantha Lavallee, Bree Johnson and Lindsay Gammon.

The camp takes place each year in Mattawa, at the Canadian Ecology Centre on the shore of the Mattawa River, a historic thoroughfare for Métis voyageurs.

The five-day camp presented 20 students in Grades 10-12 to some of their post-secondary options, including careers in the military and trades, as well as college and university. They were provided with information about application processes, budgeting, scholarships and supports from the MNO. The information sessions are combined with cultural experiences including Métis food, crafts, music and games. The campers were also visited by Roger Labelle and MNO Mattawa Métis Council President Nelson Montreuil, who taught them lessons in skinning and stretching pelts, as well as setting snares and traps.

“Some of these youth come from cities where they don’t have access to the land. Other ones who do have access to the land may not have access to information about employment or post-secondary opportunities; it’s kind of a mix. Everyone is coming here learning and sharing information,” Blore said.

First-time camper Laura Polischuk, a Grade 11 student from Kenora, wanted to meet more Métis youth and found that she learned a lot about her Métis background as well as her post-secondary options.

“Being a Métis youth is just being a part of a huge community. It’s knowing you have a place that you belong and fit in,” she said. “Opportunities like this are really important for Métis youth because it makes them more aware of different things that are happening in our province with Métis and gives you more opportunities for your future.”

“I really wanted to come to this camp this year,” said fellow first-time camper Luc Couture, from Sudbury. “It’s my first year and I got to meet new people and learn more about my culture. The people were very friendly and I made a lot of friends,” he said.

The network of Métis youth that is created from MNO activities and camps, including this one, is important for participants.

“I think opportunities like this and other camps that run through the MNO are really important for Métis youth to connect to their culture, to connect to the land and to connect to one another and to really build those communities of Métis youth that are strong throughout the province,” said Infinite Reach Facilitator Bree Johnson.

Samantha Lavallee added, “I wish I did it when I was younger; I hope this program only continues to grow in the future.”

For more photos of this year’s camp, visit the MNO Facebook page.

Posted: June 10, 2019

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