Lake Helen Grade 10 student Dennis Wawia and Fort William Grade 11 student Danielle Boudreau enjoyed learning about career opportunities at Indspire’s Soaring: Indigenous Youth Career Conference, held Oct. 21 in Thunder Bay.

Lake Helen Grade 10 student Dennis Wawia and Fort William Grade 11 student Danielle Boudreau enjoyed learning about career opportunities at Indspire’s Soaring: Indigenous Youth Career Conference, held Oct. 21 in Thunder Bay.

By Rick Garrick

THUNDER BAY – Potential career options were the focus for two Robinson Superior Treaty region high school students during Indspire’s Soaring: Indigenous Youth Career Conference.

“Education is important; without education, it is kind of hard to go out in the real world and be successful,” says Lake Helen’s Dennis Wawia, a Grade 10 Nipigon-Red Rock District High School student. “I want to be a basketball player, but other than that, I would like to be a youth justice person and help out the kids.”

Wawia enjoyed visiting the Lakehead University exhibit at the conference trade show. The conference was held Oct. 21 at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay.

“It was just about going to the school and having a good welcoming feeling at Lakehead,” Wawia says. “And how great it would be to go there.”

Fort William’s Danielle Boudreau, a Grade 11 Nipigon-Red Rock District High School student, picked up “lots of information” about career options at the conference.

“I would like to become a midwife and go to Laurentian University,” Boudreau says. “Everyone should visit college and university education fairs and learn their options and get to know which communities that they can be going to.”

More than 400 First Nation, Inuit, and Métis students and their chaperones from about 12 communities in Ontario and the Northwest Territories attended the conference to learn about job options and education funding opportunities.

“We have quite a few exciting workshops — welding is one of them — she brought her welding simulator here so the students have a chance to see what it is really like,” says Tanya Leary, K-12 community engagement specialist with Indspire. “We have IBM here sponsoring a (Lego) Robotics (Mindstorm) workshop for Grade 5-8 students.”

A group of Lac Seul elementary school students won the Lego Robotics Mindstorm lesson at the conference.

“The (Lego Robotics Mindstorm) workshop that my elementary students attended was very hands-on, very engaging,” says Jennifer Manitowabi, education director and principal for Lac Seul First Nation. “A few students in the room had never experienced Lego, so they truly enjoyed their experience.”

In addition to the welding and Lego workshops, the conference featured a wide variety of workshops, including Becoming the Career Opportunities that Matter to Me, How to Lose Money Starting Your Own Business … or Not and Electricity: Can You Feel It, as well as performances by actor Glen Gould and singer Fannie Klein.

“There were lots of workshops the kids could check out as potential career opportunities,” Leary says. “They love it. I think it is so exciting. They definitely responded very well, lots of positive feedback.”

Indspire recently held two conferences in Winnipeg and Vancouver with another scheduled for Calgary. About 40,000 indigenous youth have attended Soaring conferences since 1996.

“Any interactive workshop has a better uptake and response,” says Sonja Prevost-Derbecker, vice president of education at Indspire. “But I think it is really about exploring potentials and new world vision. We have jobs now where you can fly in to communities, work for three weeks and then fly back home to your home community. It’s a whole different labour market now than it once was.”