Photos by Giovanni Capriotti

WIKWEMIKONG—The Wikwemikong Board of Education office was abuzz with activity on Wednesday, April 15 as the board launched its newly revamped website with a breakfast feast and demonstrations.

“The website will act as an important resource for families, parents and students to assist them in playing a central role in student education,” noted WBE Education Director Dominic Beaudry.

To that end, the new website is designed with communication with students, parents and the community first and foremost in mind, said project lead Peggy Monague McGregor. “We held community meetings during February and March at each of the three schools in the community,” she noted. From those consultations came the base for the information families would like to be able to access.

Members of the various departments at the WBE delivered an overview of their department contributions to the new site’s content to those gathered for the launch.

The new website is carefully designed to improve accessibility and provide those visiting with an intuitive and easily navigated interface.
The new website is carefully designed to improve accessibility and provide those visiting with an intuitive and easily navigated interface.

Nicole Peltier, post secondary program manager, pointed out that the website reaches out beyond those attending the band’s schools to off-reserve members and post secondary students or those band members, both on and off-reserve, who wish to explore post secondary education and the career opportunities that higher education can offer.

“There is a lot of competition for post-secondary funding,” she noted. Contrary to a widely held misconception in the general public, there is only a limited pot of money available to fund post secondary education. “There is never enough money,” she said. Some First Nation bands fund all of their students’ needs, while others only fund a portion of the cost of attending school. In Wikwemikong’s case, the band only funds a portion of those costs, preferring to spread the assistance across a wider number of recipients.

[quote_left]“Tuition, books and supplies, the cost of everything has been going up, but the available funding has not. So do we fund 100 percent for a few or do we help more people with less?”[/quote_left]

Adding to the pressure is the fact that there has essentially been a cap on funding transfers for post secondary education, even as demand has skyrocketed, noted Mr. Beaudry.

“Tuition, books and supplies, the cost of everything has been going up, but the available funding has not,” said Ms. Peltier. “So do we fund 100 percent for a few or do we help more people with less?” Students are encouraged to find other funding resources, including student loans and personal bank loans to fill in the gaps.

Cathy Fox, Tish Manitowabi and Patty Debassige pose on the ‘red carpet’ during the official launch of the new Wikwemikong Board of Education website.
Cathy Fox, Tish Manitowabi and Patty Debassige pose on the ‘red carpet’ during the official launch of the new Wikwemikong Board of Education website.

With 400-plus applications coming in a year, the deadlines for funding applications have to be very strict and the forms and the applicable deadlines can be found in the post secondary portion of the website. “It is a hard thing to do,” said Ms. Peltier of turning down late applications, “but the deadlines are very strict on the funding applications.” So if the application is late, consider it an application for funding for next year’s intake.

Luckily, the online forms can be filled out and printed online, and there is a nice handy submit button to send the documents electronically.

Students attending Wikwemikong schools and their families can find many resources on the new website, including tutor aids, homework schedules (so, no more claims by students wanting to head out with their skateboards that they have no assigned homework), school and community events are listed and the WBE’s huge catalogue of Anishinaabemowin educational tools are also available on the site, complete with an online purchase option.

Wikwemikong Board of Education  Director Dominic Beaudry discusses the new user friendly board website.
Wikwemikong Board of Education
Director Dominic Beaudry discusses the new user friendly board website.

Mark Gibeault, principal and lead of the First Nations Student Services program, noted the main section of the website is divided up into four sections, literacy, numeracy, education technology and special events. “There are also links to conferences, the professional development of the teachers and math camp,” he said. Many of the entries will be uploaded in a blog-style, making them relatively easy for the teachers and professionals to upload.

“Auntie” Kathleen Eshkibok was effusive in her praise of the site. She said she was particularly pleased with the tools available to caregivers to assist them in working with students to improve their skills. “It can be very challenging for parents to try and help their children with their homework,” she said. The ability to access resources, particularly language resources, is something she thinks will be very useful. “I can look up a word that I might know but not remember perfectly and see how it is said,” she pointed out.

Aside from its user-friendly focus, its huge abundance of useful and easily understood resources, the website also looks very clean and attractive.

Artist Darlene (Dolly) Peltier of the Anishinaabe Curriculum Department, whose graphic art is prominently featured in many of the educational tools and books published by the WBR, provides the colourful background graphics for the site, while Linda Roy of Wikwemikong’s Ireva Photography supplied many of the photographic images.

Ms. Peltier described how the concept for the images came to her during the Idle No More protests during a visit to banks of the river where Chief Theresa Spence had set up her teepee during her hunger strike.

“I looked up and this great big eagle was flying overhead,” she said. “There were four women right in front of me. I put the image on Facebook and it went viral.”

The new website can be found at wbe-education.ca.

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