Celebrating Achievement for Students Across Canada

Today Shannon and I are heading to Toronto, and after a quick visit to Anishinaabeg: Art & Power, the current exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum we are heading to Grad Ball 2017: 150 Ways You Will Make a Difference, the annual Gala held in support of Pathways to Education Canada.  We are looking forward the opportunity to support this organization that has changed the lives of many young people in our lives.  Even if you can’t make it tonight in Toronto – you can support the work Pathways Canada is doing by visiting https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/pathways-to-education-canada/!  Everyone has the opportunity to make a difference!

This fall Pathways to Education Canada announced new partnerships that will lead to two new Pathways Programs, (one in Saskatoon and one in Edmonton), both with a focus on Indigenous students.  The Three Things Consulting team is proud to have played a small role in this story as it unfolded in our role as consultants to this important national youth serving organization.

Our relationship with Pathways to Education started locally, here in Kingston, where we have developed strong partnerships with students and staff since they opened their doors.  Having followed along with many young people, Indigenous and not, who have successfully completed high school – in part to the strong supports provided by KCHC Pathways to Education, we could feel the powerful spirit of the organization and their intent to create change in the lives of young people.   Seeing so many of our young friends cross the stage at a high school graduation has been empowering and a reminder that with respectful and intentional supports, like the Pathways Program offers, life paths can literally shift and move forward in a good way.  Read more about one of these graduates, our very good friend Dakota, in a past blog post, https://3things.ca/why-indigenous-education-matters/.

We had the privilege to support work they were involved with not only in Kingston but also Napanee and a natural partnership came to be in 2015 when Three Things Consulting, as part of our social commitment to give back to the community, sponsored North and South: Connecting Youth Cultures.  Bringing together more than 20 local youth from Kingston and Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, (most who were local Pathways students) we spent four months in Pathways space hosting Sunday dinners with local Elders who offered teachings and guidance that were enhanced by activities and planning for an adventure of a lifetime: the youth and Pathways staff traveled with Three Things to the Northwest Territories to spend a week learning about northern First Nations and Inuit culture.   Six weeks later, the youth, their families and our organizations hosted our new northern friends in Eastern Ontario for a week.  See the story of these young people in this video and the commitment shown by the organization to create spaces for reconciliation and education.  It is fair to say that youth, staff and the organization as a whole learned, grew and increased their commitments to reconciliation throughout this experience.

Since then though still a champion of this critical organization here in Kingston, where our national office is located, we have worked primarily for the national organization, who provides support to the now 20 Pathways Programs across Canada.  There haven’t been many relationships we have that speak to a level of commitment towards walking in a good way with Indigenous youth, families, communities and organizations than Pathways to Education Canada have demonstrated.

Our work has focused on two streams of support for the organization: Reconciliation in Action and Continuing the Pathway to Honourable Partnerships.

Reconciliation in Action

The bravery demonstrated was first seen when they shared that they didn’t know what they don’t know – and had an honest desire to learn more about Indigenous history, culture and approach to education.  From briefing papers to Sharing Circles with their national staff, our team provided ongoing support with knowledge sharing and capacity building.  We helped facilitate meetings and discussions between Pathways Canada and national Indigenous organizations to explore shared interests and commitments to youth while developing meaningful relationships.  This has led to Pathways Canada supporting the Assembly of First Nations at their annual gala, raising funds for their National Youth Council, staffing information booths at Indigenous events and looking at how they can walk together, in a good way with national bodies serving and representing Indigenous students in Canada.  We designed and delivered a monthly newsletter with highlights and news on Indigenous education that was shared nationally and with the program partners across the country.  One excited opporuntiy had us designing and facilitating a process that brought Indigenous Pathways students from across Canada together to share insight and expertise with the organization.

Lastly, our role had us support senior leadership in the design and development of the Pathways to Education Indigenous Advisory Circle.  A collective of Elders, knowledge keepers, leaders in education and entrepreneurship this group of Indigenous trailblazers have provided such important and powerful insights and guidance to the organization and we are excited to follow along as they continue to help Pathways Canada as they remain on this path in a good and honourable way.

 Continuing the Pathway to Honourable Partnerships

One of outcomes experienced by the first stream of work was a decision by the organization in 2016 to focus on identifying two new organizations that could and would launch new Pathways Programs that focus on supporting Indigenous students.  With Pathways staff, our team spent a year traveling Canada in a process that included visiting with potential communities (including meeting with youth, families, Indigenous leaders and organizations), learning from current research and reports, (such as the Truth and Reconciliation Report and Calls to Action) and determining where and who could and would be interested in exploring a new Pathways Program.  Starting with 13 communities, as our visits across the country continued, two communities and organizations became the most ready to move forward: the Saskatoon Tribal Council and the Canadian Native Friendship Centre in Edmonton.  They join Mashteuiatsh First Nation (in Quebec) as the 2nd and 3rd Indigenous led Pathways to Education Programs.  Based on the outcomes of every other Pathways Program to date, it’s fair to say that in these communities, hundreds of new Indigenous graduates will cross the stage in the coming years.  This is what the outcome of honourable partnerships and walking in a good way to build them can achieve.

With the announcement of these two new programs and the heightened awareness and knowledge held by the organization, this is some of our proudest work and it is a privilege to be involved, even in a small way with this journey.  This isn’t to say there won’t be challenges and continued learning – because there will be.  Reconciliation doesn’t have an end point – and our work with Pathways Canada will continue as we support them in continuing to move forward.

If your organization is ready – or wants to build the capacity to get to the ‘ready’ stage around shifting what kind of relationship you have with Indigenous communities and organizations and want to strengthen the support you offer, get in touch with our team.  We are always humbled to walk this path with people and organizations who are committed to renewed relationships and have the capacity to create change, internally first, and then to those you support.

Learn more about their work at https://www.pathwaystoeducation.ca/