A Wasauksing student participates in e-classes through Contact North.

A Wasauksing student participates in e-classes through Contact North.

By Heather Campbell

SUDBURY More students are choosing to stay in their community and tap into thousands of college, university, high school, and literacy courses offered at their local Contact North|Contact Nord online learning centre.

The Ontario distance education and training network has 112 centres across the province, with 27 in First Nations communities, from Six Nations to Attawapiskat.

Often times the centre is located with other education programs such as in Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, where it is located in Wasse-Abin High School.

Community member Angelina Assinewe discovered Contact North after returning to school to complete her high school diploma. She wanted to keep learning and it was possible to take a college program and stay with her family.

“It’s a lot easier to come here to the centre, especially with young children, and do my courses online.  I don’t have to move away,” says Assinewe, who is working towards her Educational Assistant diploma and hopes to work in Wiky’s elementary school.

“Our mandate is to provide access to college, university, training, literacy and basic skills programs to small, rural, remote Aboriginal and Francophone communities,” says Tina Reed, coordinator of partnerships, centre of excellence in aboriginal distance education and online learning. “That means working with First Nations communities to set up centres that allow members to stay home and not travel away from family and community supports.”

Debbie Mayer, education director for Mississaugi First Nation, is thrilled to have a partnership with Contact North so that her community can have local access to education and training programs that are located outside the community.

“The thought of going away to school can be scary and that usually means to an urban centre,” she says. “It makes sense that we have a Contact North centre in the community so our members can still achieve their educational goals.”

Mississaugi has an existing adult education program and with Contact North a building away, students can complete a high school diploma and continue on with post-secondary studies without ever leaving the community.

Fran Pine is the literacy coordinator for Mississaugi, Cutler and Serpent River First Nations, and appreciates the seamless service available. She completed her own college diploma in Social Services from Northern College through the Contact North online learning centre in Spanish.

“I have obligations at home and it makes it much easier to get your education” she says. “I started my diploma on campus a few years earlier but needed to come back home.  I always wanted to finish and with the Contact North online learning centre near my home, I got to complete my diploma.”

Pine also learned the skills she needed to be successful with distance education and feels confident to take more courses.

“The teachers are there to help, just not right in front of you,’ she says. “You just need to ask for help by sending an e-mail and you will get it.  I also made friends with other students in my class who lived around the province, but actually met and worked on a project with students who lived in Chapleau.”

Since its establishment in 1986 by the government of Ontario, Contact North|Contact Nord has generated 315,000 student registrations in over 600 small, rural, and remote Aboriginal and Francophone communities.

For more information or to research the over 1,000 programs or 18,000 courses available through online and distance education visit www.studyonline.ca.