The community of Mistissini is proud to announce a fresh crop of graduates of a different variety: adults who are now ready to go off to CEGERIt’s called the Ashuugan program, and its first wave of adult students in this three-year pilot project will soon enter first year CEGER where they take credit courses and upgrading courses in the community.

Designed as a stepping stone between high school graduation and post secondary studies, the Ashuugan program is geared towards the specific needs of those who have just graduated from secondary five or who have been away from school for some time and wish to go on to CEGERAccording to student councillor Mary Forte, “Once the students finish high school, secondary five, if they want to peruse their studies they have to go to bigger centres. And it’s not always easy for them to leave the communities, to leave the families. Some have a lot of personal issues so sometimes they will leave and they are not quite ready.”“At the beginning of the year we had about 32 or 34 applicants. Out of these applicants, 14 were accepted because they had pre-requisites for the program and of these 14, nine finished the program and eight graduated,” Forte explained.

While attending the Ashuugan program, which is housed in classrooms and office space at the Voyageur Memorial High School, students take general CEGEP preparatory courses such as English, French as a second language, remedial math, humanities, First Nations culture, and physical education.

This year’s graduates include Diane Edwards, Daryl Niquatin, Dolly Neeposh, Julianna Neeposh, Marilyn Petawabano, Iris Voyageur and Leonda Voyager. All of the students had been out of school for some time and were looking for a fresh start in academics.

The Ashuugan program is a sponsorship between the Cégep de Saint-Félicien, Centre régional de Chibougamau, the Cree School Board and Voyageur Memorial High School.

Forte is confident that approval from the Cree School Board, the management board and the school commissioners will get the program back up and running for the fall.

According to Forte, sponsorship is also available from CHRD, though the most recent graduating class did not find out that they were getting funding for the program until long after their first semester began.

“Actually the students started the program knowing that they may not be funded so they were not coming here because they were getting paid, they were coming here because they were motivated,” she said.

At the moment the Ashuugan program is the only one of its kind and is accepting students from other communities. “If the other communities expressed a desire to have such a program it would be up to the Cree School Board to decide whether they want to offer this program in other communities.”

To find out more about the Ashuugan program, contact Mary Forte at 418 923-2497.