By Loyalist College Business graduate and PR post-graduate Public Relations student Mariah Brough
Did you know that today is National Aboriginal Day? Every year on June 21, Canadians celebrate the unique heritage and diverse cultures of our Aboriginal peoples. Special celebrations are held throughout Canada to recognize the cultural contributions and achievements of the Métis, Inuit and First Nations peoples. While they share similarities, each group has its own distinct heritage, language and spiritual beliefs. National Aboriginal Day encourages Canadians to learn more about Indigenous peoples and their cultures.
Loyalist College offers Aboriginal students a welcoming environment in the Aboriginal Resource Centre (ARC). The ARC provides a support system to help students adjust to their new College surroundings. Students have the opportunity to realize their full academic potential while their cultural needs are nurtured, appreciated and celebrated. The ARC offers a dedicated study space with computers, printers, Internet and email access, a video and text library, and current Native newsletters and papers.
Among the many services and activities offered by the ARC are pre-admission counselling, academic counselling, lunch-and-learn sessions, math and writing boot camps, workshops and cultural sessions led by Elders from the surrounding area. These activities and resources support Aboriginal students in succeeding academically while they express and develop their Native heritage.
“The great thing about the Centre is our open-door policy. We are a community here, a home away from home. Our door is always open and the students can reach me any time of the day,” said Paul Latchford, Coordinator of Aboriginal Services at Loyalist. “Students are treated equally and are valued and respected. Our focus is to offer support to everyone, whether it’s with school, housing, health or transportation. I’m privileged to work with our students, and I learn so much from them in return.”
The ARC also provides support by acting as a liaison between the Native community and the College, maintaining communication with outside agencies, educational institutions and Native communities. Native organizations, Elders and community groups are kept informed of workshops and activities within the College, and encouraged to participate. Aboriginal students from high schools, territorial vocational centres and other colleges are always welcome to visit the ARC and to arrange campus tours and orientation sessions.
On May 21, Loyalist participated in CFB Trenton’s Aboriginal Awareness Day. The event was held during Aboriginal Awareness Week, in celebration of Aboriginal history. During the celebration, a new fire sculpture was unveiled to represent the teachings of the Peacemaker. Elementary school students and military personnel participated in a traditional smudging ceremony, led by Betty Maracle, Loyalist’s Visiting Elder and a member of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. Smudging is used for spiritual and physical cleansing, healing and removing negative energy. Students also participated in craft and drum-making workshops.
To learn more about the Aboriginal Resource Centre, please contact Paul Latchford, Coordinator of Aboriginal Services at 613-969-1913 ext. 2250 or visit loyalistcollege.com.