by John Copley
(ANNews) – Poundmaker’s Lodge and Treatment Centres has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with St. Albert Further Education (STFE) that will enable clients in recovery to participate in training programs designed to enhance education and knowledge in areas that include literacy, numeracy, computer skills, workplace etiquette, resume writing, interview preparation and more.
The two-page document, a one-year agreement that commences immediately and ends in June 2020, was signed by Poundmaker’s Lodge Executive Director Brad Cardinal and STFE Executive Director, Cheryl Dumont in a late morning meeting that included educators, Elders and media. The idea is to revisit the MOU next year to decide whether to continue as is or seek government funding support for additional programs and services.
Brad Cardinal introduced the room and spoke about Poundmaker’s Lodge, its origin, its history and the important role that education plays in developing a solid foundation for a healthy future, no matter what culture is represented. He also spoke about the recent MOU and how it will foster better opportunities for Indigenous people.
Under the agreement, STFE will have approximately 10 volunteer coaches who will help Poundmaker’s clients better their literacy skills via free sessions on subjects such as computer use, work skills and financial planning. Poundmaker’s staff will promote these services and help train coaches when it comes to working with clients. The trained and qualified volunteers will also direct clients to adult education programs in their home communities so learning can continue once they leave Poundmaker’s.
Each partner has specific responsibilities: STFE will supply the volunteer tutors and provide the necessary educational material. It will also ensure that all volunteers have been properly accredited. The organization will also oversee education programs, provide feedback to users and instructors and prepare quarterly reports for both parties.
Poundmaker’s will provide training for the tutors regarding working with vulnerable populations; it will also advertise the tutoring services classrooms and workshops to its clientele and ensure that training times for clients are available. Poundmaker’s will also provide an orientation tour of the facilities and will promote the services to clients who may be interested in and could benefit from the services of an individual tutor.
According to educational statistics approximately 48 percent of adult Canadians fall below a Level 3 on the literacy scale, a number that is below high school equivalency. When literacy increases so does the probability of being employed.
The intent of the initiative is to “improve the foundational literacy, numeracy, financial and computer digital competencies and to help learners build confidence and an understanding of the nine essential workplace skills. This knowledge will provide better understanding and increase future opportunity.
The educational sessions, which will be delivered in a culturally appropriate circle setting, will include one to one and a half hour personalized tutoring sessions or similar time to small group classes or workshops.
“The intent of the initiative is to support clients who have low literacy levels,” noted Cardinal. “We believe the enhanced individual support has much therapeutic value in terms of increasing esteem, increasing engagement and also supports educators in learning the Indigenous worldview. Educators will attend orientation and will follow all cultural protocols while in attendance. It is our intent to continue to invest in this important partnership. We believe that this valuable partnership supports reconciliation and both parties continue to be invested in its success.”
“Our goal, as adult educators,” stated Dumont, “is to help foundational learners who for whatever reason could not finish school. Our job is to step in and help increase confidence, boost knowledge and encourage participation.
“When you are on a journey to fight an addiction, it is important to have the tools you need to move forward once you have regained your strength; remember you can continue to pursue your educational journey after completing your program at Poundmaker’s.”
Dumont believes that the meeting of the two organizations might have been pre-destined.
“Poundmaker’s was established in 1973,” she noted, “and just a year later, in 1974, St. Albert Further Education was introduced. We were on a similar path and maybe even destined to meet in the future – here today is that future.”
Dumont noted that the initiative came about as a result of STFE’s decision to move forward and participate in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for 94 recommendations, at least one of which addresses education. She spoke briefly on the legacy of the schools and the harm they created for ongoing generations of Indigenous people, noting that those consequences included “many young people dropping out of school who don’t have the literacy skills they need to be successful and competitive in today’s environment.”
The need to ensure that literacy issues are dealt with in an educational setting is also important to Poundmaker’s.
“We will continue to support our clientele with their learning needs and encourage engagement with the external service provider,” noted Cardinal. “We believe that much was lost from the residential school experience and this program supports learning in a culturally safe, respectful way. The St. Albert Literacy Foundation is committed to its intent. In fact, I’d like to thank Cheryl, especially for the way she approached us in a very respectful way, a kind and compassionate way that was heartfelt and intent; that’s how we will work together toward meaningful reconciliation projects that will improve opportunities for our Indigenous people.
“The intent is to continue to invest in this important partnership; we believe that it supports reconciliation and both parties continue to be invested in its success.”
Dumont said she is looking forward to working with the young men and women who decide to participate in the educational opportunity that is expected to get underway near the end of March. Literacy, financial and digital (computer) mastery are among the courses that will be offered. Another course is designed for pregnant mothers and deals with positive family values and building healthy relationships.
STFE and its members offer the general public courses which can include arts and crafts, personal development, photography, social media, parenting, sports, fitness and music. The association also runs an adult literacy program and an English language learning program called STAR Literacy. These programs match volunteer tutors with adult students who wish to improve their reading, writing, numeracy, computer or English language skills.
Further education foundational programs are funded by the Alberta Government and operate in every region of Alberta. The program has served as a model for other provinces and has garnered interest from across the world.
“We hope that other jurisdictions will see what we are doing and contact us for information,” noted Dumont. “We’d like to see communities from across the province get on board so we can ensure that every person we help with their education can continue no matter where they live in Alberta.”