Hot! Native counsellors vital to student success

nugget.ca – Ontario
Posted June 5, 2010.   By Suzanne Keeptwo

The Ontario Native Education Counselling Association (ONECA) has released Walk In Our Moccasins: A Comprehensive Study of Aboriginal Education Counsellors in Ontario  <www.oneca.com/resources/Cover%20Page.pdf>.

The study is the first of its kind in Ontario to explore the positive role native education counsellors play in the lives of First Nations students. More significantly, the report is the work of Anishinaabe academic researcher, Pamela Toulouse, Sagamok Anishnawbek, who shared her story of how important the native education counsellor was on her own journey towards achieving a doctorate in education.

The launch celebrated the aboriginal perspective used to articulate First Nation educational needs. Guest speakers unanimously voiced the importance of encouraging aboriginal academics to find aboriginal solutions to these needs.

This paper can be used to challenge politicians and educate those who make policy”, says Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee.

Cultural differences are needed to be understood for purposes of success”, says Algonquins of Pikwakanagan Chief Kirby Whiteduck.

Assembly of First Nations education director Peter Garrow, adds: We need more role models, more ethno-historians, archeologists and anthropologists to tell our own story.”

The report addresses many of the challenges facing native students in post-secondary institutions and confirms the necessity of culturally validated curriculum. It also presents the need for parental and community involvement, academic readiness, social services, and the native counsellors to advocate on behalf of, and provide guidance to, First Nations students.

At the core of the study, the report shows the dedication and perseverance of First Nations peoples in the face of inflammatory intellectual-based studies [prepared by non-Aboriginal academics] that blame First Nations for a lack of student graduation rates” says Cindy Fisher, president of ONECA.

Toulouse’s comprehensive study is coming from the inside out and reinforces the impact that counsellors have on student success. The report features native education counsellors speaking out about their multifaceted support services which include academic planning, emotional counseling, data collection, and organizing spiritual workshops. The informative study also serves as a tool that can be used by First Nations when developing student success plans.

ONECA’s Native Counsellor Training Program (NCTP) has graduated more than 450 First nation education counsellors since 1977.

The program of study prepares one for the profession of counselling with a competence in implementing culturally-appropriate techniques within the context of various cultural teachings. Certification is granted by the Ministry of Education.

Aboriginal students require culturally-competent counselling services that meet their educational, mental, cultural, emotional and spiritual needs. They need to feel they belong and are valued and this is provided by the native education counsellor,” said Toulouse.

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