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Creating connections

On a Thursday in early December, several high school students step out the back door of Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre (FDASC). They stand in boot-deep snow and listen attentively as Dustin Kanonhsowanen Brant shows them how to sand the handle of the cow horn rattle they are creating.

Dustin Kanonhsowanen Brant demonstrates for high school students the technique for sanding a piece of wood into a handle for a cow horn rattle. The activty was part of the weekly after-school leadership program hosted by Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre.  

The eager high school students are taking part in the Aboriginal Youth Leadership program, one of several outreach programs FDASC is spearheading.

FDASC invited students from Grades 8-12 to join the weekly after-school leadership program. The goal is to give high school students a safe space where they can interact with positive role models including Aboriginal Queen’s students, while they develop leadership skills.

“We really want to promote healthy relationships in a culturally relevant setting,” says Ashley Maracle, Aboriginal Community Outreach Liaison, FDASC. “The program also helps fill a gap that was created after Katarokwi Native Friendship Centre closed. We are trying to offer positive and engaging programming for Indigenous students in the city.”

In addition to participating in a variety of different activities each week, the students worked to make a difference. Throughout the fall, they conducted a fundraiser to support the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation in northern Ontario. The students collected food, clothing and funds that will be sent to the northern community this winter.

"We want Indigenous students in the city to feel that Four Directions is a home for them and a safe space even when they’re in high school." 

— Ashley Maracle, Aboriginal Community Outreach Liaison

The recruitment aspect of Ms. Maracle’s job requires her to spend a lot of her time on the road. While she visits Aboriginal communities throughout Ontario to extol the virtues of Queen’s and post-secondary education, she doesn’t want to ignore Aboriginal students in Kingston and the surrounding area.

“We are trying to build relationships with the Indigenous community living here in Kingston and pull in those students earlier,” she says. “We want them to feel that Four Directions is a home for them and a safe space even when they’re in high school. We believe they are more likely to apply to Queen’s knowing that Four Directions is here for them.”

Another component of FDASC’s outreach efforts is a partnership with the Métis Nation of Ontario to offer physical activity and healthy lifestyle programs for Aboriginal youth and adults across the city. Students can attend after-school programs on Tuesdays while families can gather on Wednesday nights and play different games each week.

FDASC also established a new mentorship program with the Katarokwi Aboriginal Alternative School in Kingston. The one-on-one mentorship program sees Queen’s students travel to Katarokwi Aboriginal Alternative School each week and work with the students as they strive to achieve a personal or academic goal they have set for themselves.

“The programs are a great way for Queen’s students to engage with the Aboriginal community on a weekly basis,” Ms. Maracle adds. “All of the outreach programs give Queen’s students the opportunity to build a positive relationship with the Indigenous community here in the city, while promoting leadership skills for students engaged.”

For more information about the outreach programs, contact Ms. Maracle via email or at ext. 77986.