UNFC youth building their self-confidence, making connections

Ken Kellar

It wasn’t exactly business as usual at the Seven Generations salon on Friday.

“It’s rare to see it so busy in here,” Don Eldridge said.

Eldridge is the post-secondary co-ordinator at Seven Generations Education Institute. He was at the salon building, located at 540 King’s Highway, because of a special event that was happening.

A partnership between the United Native Friendship Centre and Seven Generations Education Institute saw the salon, which serves as a learning space for Seven Gens students enrolled in the Hairstyling program, become the base for a day of makeovers and self-confidence building for youth involved with the UNFC’s Akwe:go, Wasa-Nabin and Urban Aboriginal Healthy Living for Kids programs.

The day began with a trip to Mark’s Work Warehouse for a new outfit, before moving to the salon for haircuts, styling and make-up, before an end-of-the-day photoshoot back at the UNFC building to show off the youth’s new looks.

“It’s a self-confidence workshop,” said Kaleb Firth, who works with the youth of the Wasa-Nabin program.

“It’s also a positive way to spend a PD day.”

Firth said that Seven Generations donated their time and skills to the day, while Vanessa Big George and her mobile esthetics business “Esthetics by Vee” was brought in to do make-up for the youth that wanted it.

“The kids are really enjoying it,” Big George said.

“A lot of them haven’t had much makeup or even facials, so that’s nice to be able to offer these kinds of services to them.”

April DeGagne is the instructor of the Hairstyling program at Seven Generations. She said the day offered a win-win scenario for both everyone involved.

“It’s a good confidence builder for the youth and it’s also good for the students of the hair program to get some experience in,” DeGagne said.

“When they first walked in it was kind of nerve-wracking, but all of a sudden I’ve noticed a change in them, how they’ve just opened up because now they feel really good about themselves, so we’re getting our practice in too and it’s a good thing for both of us.”

Eldridge agreed, and said that it’s “hard to create a busy environment” when the salon is a place of learning. But he commended the hairstyling students for the work they put into the event.

“The students organized this all themselves,” Eldridge said.

“It shows true business sense. We’re going to try and do a lot more of it going forward.”

Firth explained that the makeover day came about after a visit from Turtle Concepts last year. Run by Dave Jones of Garden River First Nation, Turtle Concepts offers workshops that focus on motivating and inspiring youth to build confidence.

“Basically what they wanted us to do was to be comfortable with ourselves as individuals,” Firth said.

“And be confident, to not only make healthy choices, but to not shut doors on yourself and know that there’s a lot of possibilities out there.”

Firth said that before Turtle Concepts left, they had a conversation about ways to continue the progress made by the group, looking to maintain the “emotional high” of the experience and reinforce the message of building self-confidence. He said the makeover day was a good chance to show the youth that looking good leads to feeling good.

“With new clothes and a new look, basically it’s a new you,” Firth said.

“It’s a message of: ‘This is who I can be with positive supports.’ Dress for success.”

Firth said that one of the pillars of the youth programs offered at the UNFC is social support.

“Whether that’s providing safe and culturally appropriate programming, or creating healthy learning experience for them,” Firth explained.

“Whether it’s life skills or any specific needs, there’s always a nutrition or healthy-eating component, it’s a big concern for our community members, and we just try to have a lot of fun doing it.”

Firth noted that the group also takes part in a number of land-based activities, including canoeing, winter camping and ice-fishing.

“That’s really one of the pillars of the direction of where our youth programming seems to be trending, but it’s not always very affordable,” Firth said.

“The youth wanted to find a way that they could show that this was important to them, as well as giving back to the community, and finding a way that we can meet the public and show that we are making positive steps in empowering the youth, showing them work-ethic and building them up to make more healthier choices with their lives.”

To that end, Firth said that the youth of the UNFC will be doing a yard clean-up fundraiser this Saturday (May 4).

“Right now, so far, we have 10 yards,” Firth said.

“We’re splitting up into two teams of six youth with parental or adult supervision and, yeah, we’re just kind of raking yards and cleaning up debris.”

Firth also said that Daryl’s Custom Landscape has allowed them to dump their yard trimmings at their location, free of charge.

The recent partnership between Seven Gens, and working hand-in-hand with local businesses is important for the UNFC, and Firth said they’re always looking for more youth to join their programs, as well as creating more opportunities for cooperation with other interested parties.

“We’re here as a support for the community, and the whole community at large,” Firth said.

“And we want to foster healthy partnerships and relationships with volunteers as well as community efforts to make Fort Frances a better place for all of us to live.”

Anyone who is interested in booking a yard clean-up for Saturday is asked to call Terry McMahon or Kaleb Firth at 274-8541.