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This article was published 11/3/2019 (626 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The handiwork of local students is setting the table for First Nations children in Manitoba.
Students at Southeast Collegiate (1269 Lee Blvd.) have constructed five toddler-sized picnic tables as part of the Indigenous Internship Program at the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology.
The petite tables hand-planed and hand-painted by students will be delivered to daycares and community organizations on First Nations within Southeast Collegiate’s catchment area.
Cole Keeper, a 17-year-old student from Little Grand Rapids who helped build the pieces of outdoor furniture, said he’s happy to see his work put to good use.
"I find it amazing that one of these tables could be shipped to my community," Keeper said. "And to go back in the summer, and say ‘Hey, I built one of these.’"
Southeast Collegiate is a high school in the Fairfield Park neighbourhood serving youth in Grades 10 through 12 who move onto campus from communities in northern Manitoba, including Bloodvein First Nation, Little Grand Rapids, Brokenhead, Pauingassi First Nation, Buffalo Point First Nation, Black River First Nation, Hollow Water, Berens River and Poplar River. The school is administered by the Southeast Resource Development Council Corporation.
For the past eight years, SEC has worked with MITT to get its students hands-on trade and technology education and experience through its IIP program. Each week, kids head over to MITT for an afternoon of lessons in welding, culinary arts, hairstyling, pharmacy, hospitality, and more.
"The whole idea of the program is to give an opportunity for students to sample trades and technology career options through projects," Chantal Simard, director of French initiatives and special projects at MITT, said. "We keep them safe so they leave with all their fingers, but it’s really hands-on, and this (the picnic tables) is one of the projects they’re working on."
On this specific project, the group of SEC students worked directly with MITT carpentry students to handcraft the tables.
"It was fun to build something," 17-year-old Justice Ross said, adding that the biggest takeaway from the experience will be patience. "My picnic table took a long time to get done. I worked on one bee for an hour."
Sheryl McCorrister, principal at SEC, said communities within Southeast Tribal Council will benefit directly from the students’ creativity when the tables are shipped out later this month to Jordan’s Principle-affiliated organizations.
Jordan’s Principle is a federal policy that ensures all First Nations children can access the health, social and educational products, services and supports they need. It was named after Jordan River Anderson, a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation, who didn’t receive the home-based medical care he required due to a provincial-federal funding dispute.
Desni Simard, an 18-year-old student from Garden Hill First Nation, was pleased to know her work will be appreciated by her younger peers.
"I think it’s really cool that they’re travelling that far and it’s important to have things like that for the kids on reserves," Simard said.
Keeper plans to use the skills he picked up in the IIP experience and contribute further to his community.
"When I go back home for the summer, I think I’ll take the abilities that I learned to make these tables and make more of them at home," he said.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.