For more than 30 years, they’ve been welcoming students to its unique program of Aboriginal focused learning
By Kelly Gray
Since 1984, Yellowquill College has been a leading force in education for Manitoba’s First Nation community. Located on indigenous lands inside the City of Winnipeg near Polo Park at 480 Madison St., Yellowquill College offers a range of certificate and diploma programs designed to deliver much-needed skills to First Nations’ youth and young adults. Key areas extend from adult educational upgrading to high school completion to post secondary programs and to professional development workshops. Yellowquill has established itself as a centre for training in financial management, community health, administration, and First Nations Child and Family services as well as other areas.
The central theme of the school is educational self-determination for Manitoba First Nation peoples. It all spans from the ideas of the National Indian Brotherhood back in 1972. The group has since become the Assembly of First Nations, but the idea that “Aboriginal people have the right and the responsibility to educate their people” has matured and birthed institutions such as Yellowquill College, a school that first opened its doors more than 30 years ago. At that time the site was located on 45 acres of Long Plains First Nation lands in a refurbished building that had been Portage La Prairie’s Residential School. The vision of the founders was to create an educational facility that was (and is) respectful of Aboriginal culture and predicated on values such as honesty, humility, truth, bravery, and wisdom.
To date, Yellowquill College has seen more than 1,000 graduates take their skills to both the labour market at large as well as to home communities were they are making a difference to local governments, enterprises, and First Nation society. According to Doreen Beauchamp, Director of Yellowquill College, “Yellowquill is a college unlike any other – a special place where students have an opportunity to pursue culturally relevant educations in an environment of respect and understanding of their individual needs.”
The college suggests that this respectful approach, as well as its objective driven teaching model, its flexibility, and its relationship to employers is responsible for its success. Indeed, with more than 1,000 graduates, Yellowquill delivers completion rates higher than many other Manitoba education facilities.
Yellowquill College operates under the guidance of the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council. Under this framework, nine band chiefs sit as the school’s board of governors. With this close handling, the school has been able to tailor its academic program to the needs of Manitoba’s indigenousness community. For example, Yellowquill’s post secondary course list includes programs such as Certified Aboriginal Financial Manager, First Nations Community Management, First Nation Management and Administration as well as others in packages designed to enhance the professionalism of band governance as well as organizations in the broad mainstream.
At Yellowquill there is a basic understanding that traditional educational institutions are not a perfect fit for every student. With this in mind, the centre also offers high school programs that bring both youth and mature students back to the classroom. For example, the Mature Grade 12 program utilizes small class sizes in a setting that is sensitive to aboriginal needs and perspectives. This means more time for one-on-one instruction and more participation over the 10-month, four-term course that leads to eight graduation credits.
“”I invite you to find out more about our college and programs,” says Beauchamp, suggesting people look online at www.yellowquill.org, talk to their school councilors or drop in to the facility at 480 Madison Street to discover the changing face of education with-in the First Nations community.