AIMS Graduation celebration, M’Chigeeng First Nation.

AIMS Graduation celebration, M’Chigeeng First Nation.

Steven Corbiere receiving award for outstanding male AIMS student. A painting by Stan Panamick was also given to female outstanding AIMS student Lynn Migwans.  From Left:  Andrea Bennett, Steven Corbiere, Elder Josh Eshkawkogan.

Steven Corbiere receiving award for outstanding male AIMS student. A painting by Stan Panamick was also given to female outstanding AIMS student Lynn Migwans. From Left: Andrea Bennett, Steven Corbiere, Elder Josh Eshkawkogan.

By Kelly Crawford

M’CHIGEENG FIRST NATION – Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute recognized 55 Anishinabek Identity, Mind and Spirit (AIMS) program graduates and participants on October 24, 2014.

“Our ways are just as valid and important. The distinguishing feature of the AIMS program was that you would get to learn about our Anishinabek culture from our own teachers, our own Elders, our own resource people and our own knowledge keepers,” explained Stephanie Roy, KTEI Executive Director.

Elder Josh Eshkawkogan, KTEI Elder in Residence and graduation Master of Ceremonies, welcomed all in attendance followed by an opening prayer was by Elder Alma Jean Migwans and the reciting of the UCCMM preamble by the Mnidoo Mnising Anishinabek Kinoomaage-gamig(MMAK) students Elder Eshkawkogan played a vital role in the program, “I was very fortunate to be a big part of the student’s lives while they were with us,” Elder Eshkawkogan explained how he enjoyed supporting the students in finding their identity while gaining life skills. “The door was always open to catch up, that was the unique part of AIMS.”

The Anishinabek Identity, Mind and Spirit (AIMS) pilot program was an essential skills and job readiness pilot program that began in August 2012. The pilot included 6 intakes which offered an education framework based on medicine wheel modules (Spiritual, Physical, Emotional and Mental), Job Readiness/Preparedness, Industry Certification (GED, Customer Service, CPR/First Aid, WHMIS, Safe Food Handler, Smart Serve, Safe Talk,…etc) and a 112 work placement.

“The AIMS program helped me with my resume and upgraded my skills for employment. I learned a lot about our culture and traditions, even our language and how important it is to us. My self- esteem and confidence grew when I was taking the program,” said Steven Corbiere, M’Chigeeng First Nation, recognized as outstanding male AIMS student.

Lynn Migwans, recipient of the outstanding AIMS female student, greeted the crowd in Anishinaabemowin as she is continuing on in her studies in the Anishinaabemowin Immersion Certificate program offered at KTEI

Keynote speakers included AIMS graduates: Steve Antoine, Lynn Migwans and Joseph Ense.

Family, friends and community members were in attendance to show support. “We have many heroes and achievers; if we focus we can be successful just like them.” Chief Joe Hare, M’Chigeeng First Nation, congratulated the AIMS students on their success.

Over the course of the pilot project, the Anishinabek Identity, Mind and Spirit (AIMS) program had over 50 graduates and recognized over 100 participants. “It was great to see the turn out for the graduation. We are celebrating everyone today as many were unable to attend due to work or school commitments.” Kelly Crawford, AIMS Project Team Lead.

Beverley Roy-Carter, KTEI Director of Business and Training, developed the initial AIMS program proposal. Carter expressed her how proud she was of everyone involved from participants to staff. She sent the students off with a powerful message,

“Never stop learning. The greatest gift given to mankind by the Creator is to take possession of your mind and direct it to whatever goal you may desire.  Don’t ever underestimate the power of your mind and thoughts -nurture and take care of your own sacred fire inside of you – it is a choice you can make each and every day.” Carter finished by adding onto Nelson Mandela’s words reminding all in attendance of the power of self and education, “Education and knowing who you are is the most powerful weapon you can use to build a strong Anishinabek Nation”.

The celebration concluded with remarks from Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Elder Gordon Waindubence, KTEI Traditional Knowledge Faculty Member, as he reminded everyone the importance of connection.

Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of eight First Nation community representatives in the Manitoulin-North shore area and is centrally located in M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island – Mnidoo Mnising.  In the Ojibwe language, “Kenjgewin Teg” means “a place of knowledge”.

For more information contact Kelly Crawford, AIMS Project Team Lead, KellyCrawford@ktei.net.