Cree students at John Abbott College mark special milestone

Click to play video: 'Celebrating Cree students at John Abbott College' Celebrating Cree students at John Abbott College
Fifteen Cree students who successfully completed the Iyeskuwiiu program at John Abbott College were celebrated on Wednesday. Iyeskuwiiu is an in-community program allowing Cree students to take CEGEP-level courses developed in conjunction with members of the Cree community. The unique program aims to prepare Secondary 5 graduates for the next stage in their education. – Jun 8, 2022

A group of Cree students at John Abbott College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue west of Montreal, is marking a special milestone.

The 15 teens, ages 17-19, just completed a unique year-long program designed to help them prepare for post-secondary education.

“It is a program designed by the Cree community for Cree students,” explained Stephanie Hygate, director of Continuing Education & International Programs at John Abbott College, the body that ran the program at the request of the Cree School Board.

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“We understood that community members in our region, the Cree nation, were not always you know eager to leave their communities to pursue post secondary education,” Nian Matoush, director of Sabtuan Adult Education Services, Cree School Board told Global News during a program completion ceremony at the college.

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So the initiative aimed to create a study program that suits the students’ needs and prepares them for higher learning.

Most courses were taught online, according to Matoush, so students didn’t have to leave their communities. She said classes focused mainly on Cree culture and history and having an Indigenous focus in a college level program is what makes it unique.

The humanities classes are a prime example.

“We look at the Cree nation and the governance and governance structure of the Cree nation, using real life examples,” she pointed out.

Humanities teacher Jedidat Matoush, who is Cree, said the program is holistic and focuses on education for personal development, not just future employment.

“Including this in the course content, speaking of Cree traditions and culture and hunting lifestyle, for them it’s really important,” she noted.

One of the students, 19 year-old Ethan McLeod from the Cree Nation of Mistissini, north of Montreal, stressed that the program helped him prepare for post-secondary education. He had tried college before.

“I dropped out,” he said.  “I was totally unprepared.  Did not know what to expect, like the note taking and what not. so this program is definitely in need, in my opinion.”

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Most of the graduates plan to attend CEGEP in the fall. The Cree School board and John Abbott will continue the program next year.

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