• By: Ottawalife Contributor

Aboriginal Initiatives Program at Nipissing University

Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario offers a unique program for Aboriginal students looking for an opportunity to be involved in their community. Aboriginal Initiatives provides multiple resources that help students successfully earn a degree. The school also organizes both social and educational events that encourage students to reach out and meet new people.

student 1Anna Peltier is a second year student at Nipissing in the social welfare and social development program. Originally from the Wikwemikong community on Manitoulin Island, Peltier received her first diploma from Canadore College in the Social Service Worker program. “I was a foster care resource worker,” explained Peltier. “I worked with young offenders and youth outreach programs.” The mother of a six-year-old boy, Peltier felt that the time was right to go back to school since her son was now in school full-time. You can almost hear the smile in her voice when she talks about him. “I love being involved in his activities,” she said. “Right now he’s at the YMCA taking up drumming and he has his swimming. I’m his number one fan!” Familiar with the North Bay area, Nipissing seemed like the right fit for Peltier for continuing her education. The small classroom setting also appealed to Peltier. Some of her classes have only 10 students. “I really have nothing but good things to say about Nipissing,” said Peltier. “Your teachers know you by name so you don’t feel like you’re just a number.” It is obvious in speaking with her that Peltier has a big heart. After graduating she plans on going back to her home community and working with youth.

Peltier is passionate about working in the child welfare setting. She loves meeting, talking to and working with people and hopes to continue making a difference by doing this. In addition to attending school and keeping up with her son, Peltier is involved with the Aboriginal Mentorship Program offered at Nipissing. As a part of this program, she goes around to high schools in the North Bay area to provide support and help them with a collective project. “We’re in the early stages right now,” she explained. “In the past schools have done art murals, things like that. The kids I’m working with now are thinking of building a teepee or a canoe.”

student 2 Second year student, Tyson Wesley said that the Mentorship Program is something he is interested in getting involved with as well. “It’s a way of giving back to the school,” he said.

Wesley is from the Kaskechewan Reserve near the James Bay coast. He came to Nipissing through the Aboriginal Advantage Program which he described as a one year transition platform. He started at Canadore College in a business program before transferring to Nipissing to study political science. He said that his local community is not far from the Northern Ontario Ring of Fire, a massive mining project. Because of these developments, Wesley sees himself returning to his community after graduating to have an impact through local politics. “I think there is a big market for Aboriginal, educated people in terms of development and resources,” he explained. “It’s a driving force for me to fill those positions.”

Without a doubt, Aboriginal Initiatives at Nipissing will be beneficial in both students’ journeys. The hard work and determination exemplified by Peltier and Wesley strongly reflect what Initiatives stands for. In celebrating their cultures, the Initiatives as well as the people involved continue to make a positive difference not only in the Nipissing community but in the surrounding regions as well.