First Nations youth were encouraged to stay in school and pursue their career goals during the fifth annual Dream Walker’s Gathering for Urban Aboriginal Youth.
The three-day event, hosted by the Niagara Peninsula Aboriginal Area Management Board, was held at Tim Horton Onondaga Farms on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
The event drew about 600 high school students from across southwestern Ontario to hear motivational speakers, learn about job opportunities and participate in educational activities.
Ralph Summers, special projects officer with the Niagara Peninsula Aboriginal Area Management Board, said the event was designed to help youth plan their future.
“We run this to encourage students to stay in school because high school is just four or five short years,” Summers said. “We hold this event annually at this time of year because when students get their first progress report, many make a decision about whether they will stay in school.”
The event included guest speakers Wab Kinew, a hip-hop artist and former host of the CBC documentary 8th Fire, and Candy Palmater, a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation and star of Aboriginal Peoples Television Network series The Candy Show.
Seventeen-year-old Shane Capton, a Grade 12 student at McKinnon Park Secondary School in Caledonia, said he learned much from the event’s guest speakers.
“I learned to be in charge of my own future and to not doubt myself,” Capton said. “It’s important for this event to happen so students who don’t think they’re going anywhere can be uplifted and encouraged.”
Royal Canadian Navy chief petty officer Jeff Gourlay attended the Dream Walker’s Gathering.
“We are here to promote the navy’s visibility and promote careers in the navy,” said Gourlay, who has been with the Canadian Forces for 33 years. “There are a lot of good opportunities for advancement, education and training.”
The Niagara Peninsula Aboriginal Area Management Board provides stay in school initiatives and entrepreneurship and apprenticeship programs for urban Aboriginal youth between the ages of 15 and 30. The organization has offices in Hamilton, Brantford and St. Catharines.