First-year college students gather from different communities to attend their first year of college in Chibougamou. Chibougamou College is primarily a French school with one English class, which is made up of native students. This is an exciting and very special step for the students. Some as young as 16 leave home to begin their journeys as adults. They will live on their own, either in apartments or in a residence home and attend school three times a week. The program they attend is a special program called transition. Jo-Ann Toulouse coordinates and helps the students adjust to college and their individual needs.

Lance: Jo-Ann Toulouse what is your role here at the college?

I am the student advisor as well as teacher in the transition program at Chibougamou College.

My job consists of helping students become accustomed to college as well as helping students with specific difficulties in class or developing learning skills. As well, I do the day-to-day administration of the program.

The preparatory program is a brand-new program. It is only in its second year and is still a pilot project. We are hoping that eventually it will become permanent.

Lance: What is the transition program exactly?

It is a one-year session for students who are not sure of what they want to study yet, and those who just want to try college to see if it is for them. Some students want to increase their marks and others want to pick up additional credits.

This program is an opportunity that allow students to do those things. It also gives students from the north and from the communities to get accustomed to what college is. It helps to prepare for bigger colleges in the south or out west.

You are far from friends, far from family and far from your community. This is another part of college that can be difficult.

Having a transition program here, close to the communities allows students to go home easier and keep in touch with their friends and families.

Lance: How many students are there?

Last year we started with ten students, nine from Waswanipi and one from Mistissini. This year we have twenty-three students. They are pretty evenly divided between Waswanipi, Mistissini and Nemaska and we have one student from Ouje-Bougoumou. There’s also one from Eastmain. She will be stuying in French.

Lance: Do you teach Native students too?

Yes, I teach a class called “Success” actually. It is a class on study methods. No matter how many years we have been teaching students and students have been going to school, they figure they know how to study on their own.

When you get to college, it is different. No one tells you how to write this down exactly or what is the most important part.

I teach students how to do this. I teach them how to make the most of reading and how to develop the skills they already have. It’s a good course. I keep learning new things too.

Lance: How are all the students from different communities getting along?

Although those students come from different communities, they have experienced a lot of the same things, so there is no friction, other than between guys and girls. They still usually hang out with people from their own community. Eventually, they make new friends and I think it is positive because they get the chance to see it is possible to meet new people from other communities and from the French sector. They can learn that friendships can be made anywhere — just because we leave home doesn’t mean that we are going to be alone.

Teachers find working with Cree students a little daunting because they don’t talk a lot. In class, they listen and wait before answering. This year the group laughs a lot. We have some very bright students.

For the students who want to apply to the college for winter registration, applications have to be made by November 1st, and they have to be received at the service regionale. You can see your guidance counselor at your home school. The phone number here is (418) 748-7637. My name is Jo-Ann Toulouse and I’ll mail one out to you. Please remember that post-secondary funding request must be in by October 1st. If you want to be financed for the semester, it is a good idea to make sure it gets in on time.

The teachers in this program are:

Jo-Ann Toulouse – Success

Lisa Shea – English

Jean Pierre Vincent – Computers

Michel Lavoie – Physical Education

Marie Zacherie – Math

The students enrolled in the school this semester are:

From Nemaska:

Sharon Blackned

Melanie Jolly

Kristen Moar

Laura Wapachee

From Mistissini:

Shirley Coonishish

Cindy Neeposh

David Neeposh

Uriah Neeposh

Dale Petawabano

Crystale Petawabano

From Eastmain (in French):

Melanie Dixon-Gilpin

From Ouje-Bougoumou:

Jolina Dixon

From Waswanipi:

Caroline Blacksmith

Irene Blacksmith

Jesse Cooper

Gabriel Cooper

Christina Gull

Melissa Gull

Wayne Mathias

Arnold Neeposh