Academic journal article Rural Educator

Youth Development Program in Northern Manitoba

Academic journal article Rural Educator

Youth Development Program in Northern Manitoba

Article excerpt

In 2011, a Community-University Research Alliance project known as the Vital Outcome Indicators for Community Engagement (VOICE), received a five-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. This research project brought community partners, organizations, and university researchers together for the purpose of helping children and youth from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities in northern Manitoba to achieve greater educational and career success. Brandon University and the University College of the North, two small universities located in rural Manitoba, were co-applicants in this Community-University Research Alliance project.

The VOICE project has received provincial and national interest because of the unique partnerships and the intention for all of the projects to be community initiated and governed. Unique to this research is that community circles create Success Pathways and drive the research process by identifying, reviewing, and suggesting research plans. University personnel provide support and guidance, as well as conduct research. This project is about making communities and researchers true partners in the co-creation and dissemination of knowledge. One of the communities involved in this research alliance is Thompson, Manitoba.

The Thompson Community Circle identified the Cultural, Economic, Political, and Social Youth Leadership Development Program (CEPS), a youth development program, coordinated and managed by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, as a Success Pathway because of its importance to youth in and around Thompson. CEPS is an innovative program intended to enhance the cultural, economic, political, and social strengths of emerging Aboriginal adults (aged 15-29) in northern Manitoba, Canada. Developed through the support of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs (n.d.), CEPS Youth Leadership Development Program fosters the following: "revitalization and re-connection to culture; education on the history of First Nations people; united approaches to self-determination; skills development and knowledge enhancement in cultural, social, political, and economic areas; and youth empowerment" (Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Para. 2).

Context

Thompson, located in northern Manitoba 740 km from the provincial capital of Winnipeg, is referred to as "the hub of the North" because it is a connector for the surrounding smaller communities. Thompson is the largest urban center for hundreds of kilometers and has a population in excess of 10,000. Many people within the city of Thompson have a disposable income in excess of most other Canadian cities, which is largely due to their employment in nickel processing at Vale Mine. Vale Mine employs approximately 20% of the city's employable citizens (The Canadian Business Journal, 2014). Thompson also has a high population of underemployed citizens. Currently, over half of the citizens in Thompson are of Aboriginal ancestry. While the city is becoming more diverse with the recent influx of immigrants and the loss of part of the mining operation, the city continues to be divided along economic and Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal lines (Personal communication, Thompson Community Circle, 2012).

CEPS Youth Leadership Development Program

The CEPS program aims to enhance individual growth in cultural, economic, political, and social areas. These four areas were identified by the Aboriginal youth as necessary for Aboriginal youth leadership development. CEPS is a program based on what youth need and desire in order to develop into strong leaders. CEPS incorporates a vast amount of teachings that help youth reconnect with their culture and traditions. Youth learn about the economics of the world that surrounds them and they come to understand the politics of their communities. CEPS encompasses the mind, body, and spirit, and connects youth with their family, community, and nation. The program respects the diversity of First Nations and establishes that Aboriginal communities all face common challenges. …

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