Local MP Don Rusnak toured the Seven Generations Education Institute’s new facility which is nearing completion here earlier this month and was impressed by what he saw.
“Credit to the contractors and [Seven Generations CEO] Brent [Tookenay] for having the contractors work through the winter,” Rusnak said.
“To get it to this stage over the winter, and especially here in Northwestern Ontario, credit to the guys working here.
“There’s been a lot of progress since July to get the buildings closed in,” he added.
Tookenay said he hopes to have students moved into the new facility following March Break but noted it could be sooner.
“March Break’s a little easier because there’s no students around . . . but we’ll see how it goes,” he remarked.
“If a door doesn’t show up or something doesn’t show up, then you’re kind of behind the eight ball but it’s been pretty smooth so far.”
Rusnak, meanwhile, is happy to have been able to support the facility through a federal government investment of close to $9 million.
“When the federal government makes a huge investment in this $15-million project . . . it’s an investment for all community members,” he explained.
“Seven Generations has been working with students right across the district training for the jobs that are already here, and the jobs that are going to be here in the future,” he noted.
Rusnak is eager to make a return visit once the facility opens to view all the new technology that will be integrated there.
Microsoft Academy, virtual reality, virtual classrooms, 3D printing, and hologram projections all will be utilized by Seven Generations to help its students learn.
“Technology is ever-changing and this facility will change with it,” Rusnak said.
“That’s good for the whole region.”
Seven Generations currently offers 20 programs and Tookenay is hopeful that number will grow with the new facility.
He said Seven Generations looks forward to working with the district’s First Nations to accommodate requests for new locally-offered programs as needed.
“The way we run is if a First Nation wants a social work program, we try and make that happen or if they want a heavy equipment [program], we try and make that happen,” Tookenay explained.
As well, through working with businesses, hospitals, and organizations, he hopes to identify the needs of local employers so students can have somewhere to work after they graduate.
Meanwhile, Tookenay is optimistic enrolment numbers will continue to grow as the new facility gets closer to opening.
“There’s been a lot of interest,” he remarked. “One of the programs running that’s got a lot of traction is the video game art.”
Such a program never has been offered in the district before and there is a waiting list due to the amount of interest in it.
Seven Generations also is unique in that it offers education from kindergarten through to post-secondary, where students can graduate with certificates, degrees, and diplomas.
One of its goals is to train district residents locally so they can stay in their communities.
“That’s been a real barrier for a lot of folks,” Tookenay noted. “Not just for indigenous but non-indigenous [students], too.
“They can’t just get up and move their family . . . so we’re bringing it to them.”
As well, Tookenay said it’s important to note this facility is for all students in the district.
“If you work alone, and this is only for First Nations’ people or for First Nation communities, it doesn’t really move things forward,” he reasoned.
“You have to be working together and learning together,” Tookenay stressed. “That’s the only way things are going to get better in Canada and in the world.
“There’s so much that our First Nations can share with non-First Nations’ communities and vice-versa,” he added.
“If you get both working together, you’re going to have some really good progress.”
Tookenay is eager to finally see all of Seven Generations’ programs offered under one roof–creating a sense of community at the school.
“I just can’t wait for the [opening] day to see the [students] walking around because this is their building,” he enthused.
“It’s not Seven Gens, it’s theirs.”