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New program helps support workers better serve Aboriginal people and communities
Okanagan College Media Release

A new program developed by Okanagan College in collaboration with local First Nations communities and regional Aboriginal organizations will prepare learners to step into community support work assisting Aboriginal individuals and families.

The Aboriginal Community Support Worker Certificate program launches on November 28 at the College’s Salmon Arm campus. It will include a practicum with a local community/human service work employer.

“This program is the product of extensive consultation with bands throughout the Interior of B.C. as well as a number of community entities that serve Aboriginal peoples in the region,” explains Dr. Dennis Silvestrone, Okanagan College’s Director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Training. “We learned there was a need for training that enables community support workers to gain a deeper knowledge of the specific challenges facing Aboriginal individuals and families.”

The College worked closely with members of the Aboriginal community to develop the curriculum and to ensure it was built on a strong foundation of traditional Aboriginal knowledge and culture. Jennifer Leason is one of the scholars who is helping guide the process and make the program a reality.

The Aboriginal Community Support Worker Certificate says it all in its name,” notes Leason, a highly regarded Anishina-kwe scholar and PhD candidate who teaches Women’s Studies at Okanagan College. “The program is about transformative learning and providing culturally safe, relevant and meaningful support when working with Indigenous peoples, families and communities.”

Leason is no stranger when it comes to advancing Indigenous knowledge in the post-secondary sector. She also recently piloted a new course at the College on Canadian Indigenous Women's Perspectives, Indigenous Feminism, Oppression and Resistance. Her research focuses on Indigenous women’s maternal and reproductive health in Canada.

The course includes workshops featuring local Aboriginal knowledge and culture, Elders and other guest speakers from local bands. It is designed for students of all backgrounds (Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal heritage) who are interested in working with the Aboriginal community, notes Leason.

“The approach to designing and delivering the program has been based on collaborative relationships, respectful dialogue and meaningful engagement,” she says. “The course engages students in a process of decolonization and encourages them to work together towards reconciliation. It is truly an innovative and exciting program."

The College is currently looking for organizations in the health and human service work field who are interested in accepting students for practicum placements.

More information about the Aboriginal Community Support Worker Certificate program is available atwww.okanagan.bc.ca/acsw