New classroom space at the Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s House of Learning will help more students prepare for college.
That’s according to manager Therese Lindsay, who spoke about the benefits of the new rooms at an opening ceremony Monday morning.
“For some of our students, they haven’t been in an education environment for decades,” she said.
“If they’re venturing out for the first time it can be scary for some. Being able to offer programming here within Kwanlin Dun, in an environment they feel comfortable in, is a good first step.”
Two new classrooms were added to the centre, as well as two new offices.
The large classroom features a smart board donated by Yukon College and a selection of academic books.
It’s known as the Crow Room because it features a large painting by Brian McIntosh and the late Rayman Shorty.
When the old space was torn down, the painting was carefully cut out of the drywall and preserved. It was recently reframed and strengthened.
The Wolf Room, about half the size of the Crow Room, doubles as a meeting or board room.
That will provide a much-needed quieter space for both teachers and students, Lindsay said.
“We used to tutor students out in the hallway,” she said, “and there were kids running back and forth so it was noisy.”
“It made it difficult to have any quiet.”
For the past 11 weeks, students taking the centre’s event planning course have been enjoying the new classroom space.
Six of them will graduate from the course next week.
Lindsay said the demand for the course initially came from the community, as well as chief and council, who expressed a need for more event planners.
The House of Learning, established in 1998 in partnership with Yukon College, provides educational opportunities and workplace skills to Kwanlin Dun First Nation citizens.
Students can dip their toes in courses that are offered at the college, such as literacy or standard first aid, or take short-term courses such as Bobcat safety and outdoor power equipment safety maintenance.
Tutoring services to younger students are also provided, as well as employment services.
Education Minister Doug Graham said the need to have an educational centre in the First Nation became apparent in the 1990s.
“One of the things we knew back then was that we had a number of First Nation students coming to the college and most of them were involved in Level 2 or 3 classes,” said Graham, the college’s former registrar.
“There were problems for these students entering a college system. Through negotiations with Kwanlin Dun, the college determined that if these students were able to attend a centre in an area they’re familiar with, attendance and learning outcomes would improve.
“And that’s what we have witnessed over the years.”
Graham said he’s seen many students transition from the House of Learning to the college but also to other educational institutions, such as the Yukon School of Visual Arts in Dawson City.
The government provided $250,000 in funding for the new space through a Yukon Asset Construction Agreement with the First Nation.
These agreements are provisions within the First Nation’s final agreement, with the aim of providing training and employment benefits for the First Nation through government projects that take place on Kwanlin Dun land.
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