Plans for MNO Postsecondary Mentoring Program Generating Excitement

pse-groupParticipants and facilitators at MNO Métis Students Postsecondary
Focus Group sessions on March 26 in Toronto. Back row (l-r) Nick
Callaghan (Youth Representative on the PCMNO), Andrea Park,
Stephanie Humphries, Annette Laprise, Benny Michaud (MNO
Postsecondary Analyst), Melody Chislett, Senator Roland St.Germain.
Front Row (l-r) Conlin Sawchuck, Ginny Gonneau, Sylvie Forest,
Crystal Audette, Sheila Grantham and Jasmine Kondracki

Eleven enthusiastic Métis students from nine different Ontario Postsecondary institutions gathered in Toronto on Saturday, March 26 to start the process of developing a Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) program to provide role models and mentors for Métis postsecondary students. The Postsecondary institutions represented were University of Toronto, Sault College, Cambrian College, University of Sudbury, Sutherland-Chan School of Massage Therapy, Athabasca University, Carleton University, McMaster University and Laurentian University.

The students were brought to together by Benny Michaud, the MNO Postsecondary Education Analyst with the Education and Training Branch, as a focus group to help the MNO develop a new program to assist Métis students attending postsecondary institutions. “We had two major purposes for our focus group,”pse-garyPresident Gary Lipinski (standing) and Chair France Picotte (on his
left) meeting with the Focus Group Students
explained Michaud, “first we wanted the to identify obstacles facing Métis postsecondary students as well as discuss solutions to these obstacles. Secondly we wanted their ideas on how to effectively implement a role model and mentoring program in Ontario postsecondary institutions.”

MNO President Gary Lipinski, MNO Chair France Picotte and Senator Roland St. Germain all took the time to attend parts of the focus group meeting and provide the students with inspiration and encouragement. “Encourage the Métis people you know,” President Lipinski told the students, “and make them aware of what they can be. In that way we can all be role models.” He also told the students: “Tell us what the Métis Nation can do to help you in your postsecondary education. We are behind you! Let us know what the MNO can do to help.”

The students identified a number of difficulties that Métis students commonly face during their postsecondary education. Issues surrounding funding and poverty often create difficulties as do issues related to feeling isolated because Métis students often are far from their families and there are no visible Métis communities on many university and college campuses. Also, as they are frequently the first person in their family to attend a postsecondary institution, relating their experiences to their family is sometimes challenging. For these and other reasons, the students felt that the MNO mentorship and role model program would function best as a network. “The students envisioned a community of Métis learners, learning from each other,” explained Michaud.  Michaud was impressed by the students’ ideas. “The approach they are suggesting would impact more people than we initially thought,” she said, “and will expand the boundaries of the project. I’m excited and can’t wait to start implementing this program.”


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