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Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre looks to raise $1 million for independent urban Indigenous school

Centre says school would be first of its kind in B.C.
Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre has embarked on a fundraising campaign, seeking to raise $1 million for establishment of an independent urban Indigenous school. Pictured here, Tsawalk Learning Centre students at an Orange Shirt Day event in September. (Submitted photo)

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre seeks to raise $1 million to establish an independent school for urban Indigenous students, which it says would be the first of its kind in B.C.

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre runs Nisaika Kum’tuks (Grade K-7) and Tsawalk (Grade 8-12) learning centres which are set to consolidate at the end of June, as per a B.C. Ministry of Education directive. According to a press release, the two were established in 2014 and 2016 respectively, to address needs of highly vulnerable and hard-to-engage Indigenous students in the area.

The two facilities have an open-door policy that sees staff available to students 365 days a year, the press release said, and the fear is that the merge could see students that have struggled in the past, experiencing difficulties transitioning to “a larger educational system due to a lack of Indigenous-centred support systems and year-round programming.”

The learning centres’ models have shown that Indigenous children and young adult learners can benefit from individualized programming and project-based curriculum and support services, the press release said.

The $1 million would go to support the development of a K-12 school program and the application process for a 2022 opening, the press release said, with money also being used for a school site.

Dogwood and adult Dogwood diplomas and Evergreen certificate programs would be offered, said the press release, adding that 11 students have earned adult Dogwood diplomas at Tsawalk and 12 students are “on track” to graduate this year.

The centres currently include eight teachers, three support workers, a “land-and-sea coordinator,” two Elders and various program supports from community partners, noted the release.

“[The] curriculum combines traditional teachings, culture, and academics, in addition to work experience and trades training,” noted the release.

More than 30 per cent of Tsawalk students are in or were in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development or a delegated aboriginal agency, the press release said.

People wishing to donate can do so here.

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