First Nations youth connect with STEM mentors at OFNTSC summit

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Fort William Elder Rita Fenton gives her presentation on Medicine Wheel teachings March 30 at the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Society First Nations Youth STEM Summit 2022.

By Rick Garrick

THUNDER BAY — The Ontario First Nations Technical Services Society First Nations Youth STEM Summit 2022 included presentations from Fort William Elder Rita Fenton, Danny Deleary of the Oneida Nation of the Thames and Jason Thompson of the Red Rock Indian Band. The STEM Summit was a hybrid event, with the in-person portion taking place at the Fort William Historic Site in Thunder Bay, and a live stream for youth across the province on March 30.

“In my thirties, that’s when I started my journey down the red road,” elder Fenton says during her presentation on the Medicine Wheel teachings, noting that she also began her studies at Confederation. College two years later. “Our teacher was the late Walter Linklater and he started teaching us our history. Our history was not taught in my school — we learned history, but not our history; so needless to say i grew up not really knowing who i was, i had no identity.

The elder Fenton says she discovered her identity when she went to her first powwow with her class and teacher at Confederation College and started dancing.

“That’s when I felt, ‘This is who I am — I’m Anishinabe,’” says Elder Fenton. “For years I didn’t know who I was, I was lost, and when you’re lost, you find it hard to fit in, to belong somewhere, to be accepted and loved for who you are.”

Brother Fenton says when she danced in that powwow, she felt that connection with her spirit.

“It’s who I am and it was a big part that was missing,” Elder Fenton said.

Deleary, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Aboriginal Apprenticeship Board of Ontario, said they seek to increase the level of engagement of Aboriginal communities and people in the skilled trades during his presentation of the Aboriginal Apprenticeship Board of Ontario Water Pipes Initiative. Information is posted online.

“An apprenticeship is a learning journey just like going to college [and] college, the difference being that you’re going to make money while you learn,” says Deleary. “While you are in your apprenticeship, you get paid as an intern, paid as a learner of that trade, whatever that trade is, one of over 140 [trades].”

Deleary says there are 23 compulsory trades and 56 designated Red Seal trades in Ontario.

“The apprenticeship takes place in a hands-on environment under the tutelage and supervision of a journeyperson in that particular trade,” says Deleary. “There are parts of an apprenticeship where you go to school, what they call trade school, and for each trade it’s different. Every time you go to trade school, your salary increases.

Deleary says the minimum entry level for some trades is Grade 10, but he encourages everyone to complete Grade 12 or a General Education Development (GED) certificate.

“Some jobs require higher-level math or higher-level physics or science,” says Deleary. “It’s just for individuals to successfully become and achieve companion status.”

Warrior Engineering owner Jason Thompson delivers his engineering presentation March 30 at the 2022 Ontario First Nations Technical Services Society First Nations Youth STEM Summit.

Thompson, owner of Warrior Engineering, says he believes in volunteering in the community, noting he is set to be president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce for 2022-23, during his presentation on engineering.

“The Chamber of Commerce is going through a lot of changes when it comes to inclusion — they’re learning,” says Thompson. “I’m also a founding member of the Anishnawbe Business Professional Association here in Thunder Bay.

Thompson adds that he is also an active member of the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business and president of Shkoday in Thunder Bay.

“The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business is a very strong organization that gives us, as Aboriginal businesses, a voice on the national and international stage,” said Thompson. “In Shkoday, we have our Aboriginal Head Start program as well as our after-school program here in town for off-reserve groups. [citizens]. So if you’re looking for support, programming, come see us — we want to work with other organizations. It’s my mandate as Chairman of the Board to do more collaboration because I believe the path to future success is through collaboration and breaking down those silos. We have worked in silos for too long, it is time to break down these silos and build bridges.

This event was aimed at First Nations youth in grades 7-12 and highlighted technical careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and connected these topics to traditional Anishinaabe cultural teachings in a way that generates excitement and passion. for these fields. The event also included workshops focusing on the connection between traditional indigenous knowledge and STEM, presentations such as how First Nations youth can help fight climate change, the cultural importance of water to First Nations, environmental science through an Indigenous lens, and traditional Indigenous housing versus modern architecture.

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