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Cree Students Get Tailored College Experience


In Northern Quebec, the Cree School Board partnered with John Abbott College to offer Cree high school graduates an online college education program. The one-year agenda is called the Iyeskuwiiu Springboard to Diploma of College Studies Program.

Created by Cree education experts, the courses are entirely online and designed to help students feel more prepared for college (Iyeskuwiiu means “to get ready” in East James Bay Cree). 

Using Cree Resources To Develop College Material 

The college studies program comprises nine courses, earning participants 16 credits transferable to any English-language qualifying college across the province. Currently, Nian Matoush, the Cree School Board Director of Adult Education, says the program is available to students from Eeyou Istchee territories. 

Matoush also expressed the importance of these credits being transferable to another college, as it will encourage students to continue their higher education. Currently, the program’s courses include land-based physical education, sub-Arctic literature, a humanities course, and others.

“It’s entirely based on Cree history…using Cree sources to develop the content itself but following college guidelines to make sure that students are credited at the end of the courses,” Matoush explains. 

An Educational Program Carrying Numerous Benefits 

This educational program strives to be a multi-faceted tool for Cree students. For example, one of the program’s primary objectives is to allow high school students to start post-secondary education without experiencing culture shock.

Another goal the program carries is to break down the numerous systemic barriers to their success, which occurs too often for Native Americans. Because the courses are entirely online, it gives students the opportunity to discover who they are as Cree people.

“The core of this program is really reinforcing the Cree identity and giving students an opportunity to go through an entire program where they can not only learn about their culture but [also] have their own identity reinforced,” Matoush says. 

Essentially, the online structure serves as a transitional period for these Indigenous students. As a result, they have plenty of time to improve their reading, writing, and comprehension skills in English. In the past, this was a prominent barrier that discouraged Cree students from pursuing a college education. 

Breaking Down Historical Barriers For Cree High Schoolers

The demand for more programs like the one based in Northern Quebec cannot be overemphasized. Historically, Native Americans have faced an abundance of factors that discourage a college education.

For example, Indigenous students are more likely to need grant money but less likely to take out student loans. On top of that, economic disadvantages make it seem like attending college is implausible. 

For Cree students part of this program, something that initially seemed impossible is being transformed into a realistic goal. Because of the online format, students can receive support from their families while pursuing a new endeavor. Additionally, they are allowed extra time to figure out what they want to study in the future. 

Overall, this program takes effective and productive steps to address the disproportionate percentages of Indigenous students who don’t pursue secondary education. 

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