Hundreds of high school students from across Canada arrived at Montreal’s Palais des Congres October 30 and hung out, text messaged and giggled their way to learning about potential careers at a rare job fair that was focused solely on the youth.
The event also featured a lineup of Aboriginal role models to help the young delegates better learn how to chase their dreams.
The fair is an initiative of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation. CEO Roberta Jamieson, from the Mohawk community of Six Nations, was on hand to encourage higher learning.
“Our youth are Canada’ fastest-growing demographic group at a time when Canada is facing severe labour shortages,” Jameson said. “The Foundation’s career fairs are powerful motivators and information providers of the many career and educational possibilities available to them so they can realize their potential.”
David Gill, 28, is an Innu track and field athlete from Mashteuiiatsh First Nation. He was hoping to give the kids a boost, but at the same time, he explained that sometimes instead of finding your dreams, your dreams find you.
“I kind of stumbled upon my dream,” said Gill. “I only started running at 17 years old. My dream was more general; I wanted to be the best, to leave my mark. I have always been a competitor and wanted to do everything 100 per cent.”
He said it is important to have a good work ethic and if you do, the rest will fall into place.
“Once you have that dream, you need to go a step further,” he said. “Take action. Take that dream and bring it to today. What are you going to do to get closer to that dream?”
Gill is currently training hard in hopes of qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in the 1500-metre race.
He will know where he stands in June when he must meet a certain standard of race times and qualify in a pre-Olympic meet by finishing in the top four.
“It was the sport of running that came to me, starting with the fact that I just wanted to be good at something. If I had been talented at hockey or basketball, which are sports that I tried, maybe that’s what I would be doing right now. But I wasn’t.”
Gill recently beat the record in an eight-kilometre cross-country race on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.
Although the win on the Plains of Abraham did not go towards his Olympic push because it was not on an actual track, “It helped with my confidence. It’s more to see where I’m at.”
Aside from track, Gill also runs totalcoaching.com, a website that teaches individuals how to get in shape and stay fit. They have a program specifically for schools that help coaches use a set plan to motivate their students.
Since its inception last year, over 800 people have tried it, including the Rouge et Or champion football team at the Université de Laval.
Talented actress Jennifer Podemski emceed the event, which also included Samien, an Anishinabe rap singer from Pikogan. He was joined by Cree favorite CerAmony, who have a huge following for their hard-rocking, politically-driven lyrics.
Kanesatake Mohawk Duncan Cree, 35, also took the stage to speak to the youth about their future goals. His path to what he hopes will be the moon has been littered with setbacks, starting with his failing Grade 5. But he persevered.
“After high school I did an aircraft maintenance program for two years, one in English, one in French,” Cree told the Nation. “After college I went to Concordia University and got my Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. Then I did a Masters in Engineering for two years and now I’m doing a PHD in Engineering.”
Cree hopes to throw his name into the hat for the next trip to the moon after he won a $25,000 scholarship this past summer with the International Space University to study toward becoming an astronaut at the University of Beihang in Beijing, China. The Canadian Foundation for the International Space University gave Cree the cash to attend. NAAF also gave him spending money while he was there.
Cree said the last two recruitment campaigns were in 1983 and 1992. About 1000 people usually apply and only two or three of the best are selected.
“Before, the space race was between the U.S. and Russia. Now it’s between the U.S. and China,” he said. “They want to go back to the moon around 2016 and then to Mars by around 2030.”
Cree said he learned about satellites, rockets and radiation and its effects during his summer in China. He also met many interesting and colourful people from around the world.
As for his chances of going to the moon, Cree had a meeting on October 29 with the Canadian Space Agency to get a debriefing on his summer in China. It was one more step towards his dream.
Cree’s message to the youth was simple.
“Even though you fail a few courses here and there, don’t give up,” he said. “Keep going. It’s also very important to learn from your mistakes so you don’t make them again.”