16 youth from the community have wrapped up a unique eight-week learning experience over the summer, getting to experience new career paths, developing leadership skills, and working in positions otherwise out of reach.

Ogimaawabiitong (Kenora Chiefs Advisory) and Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong partnered to offer youth summer employment a variety of unique positions across our organization and with community partners, including the Lake of the Woods District Hospital, the Makwa Patrol, Youth Wellness Hub, and more.

The Kenora Chiefs Advisory’s Youth Leadership & Employment Program aims to help Indigenous youth develop leadership skills, establish bonds with community members and introduce youth to new career paths – with supports after the program to help guide them on whichever path they choose.

Noah White worked as a Peer Support Worker at the Kenora Youth Wellness Hub over the summer, spending time with and helping other youth access support services in the area. White says the program is one he hopes to join again next summer – ahead of his new potential career in social work.

“It was definitely unique. I was a dishwasher before. I never expected to have an opportunity like that. Or I had to go to school. But it was such an enjoyable experience,” he says.

“Now I’m considering working in the field and I’m hoping to come back next summer to continue working with them. It’s exciting. There’s a job for everyone here. There’s a lot to learn. It’s something everyone should look into,” White adds.

The eight-week program wrapped up with a two-day cultural retreat at KCA’s Youth and Family Wellness Camp this week, with a beach day, ribbon skirt making, equine-assisted learning, volleyball, presentations from Shooniya Wa-Biitong staff, and more.

“I picked up a lot of good experience, because I want to be a teacher when I grow up,” said Denim Mandamin, who worked with KCA’s Right to Play program and Indigenous Rookie baseball league – helping youth across Treaty #3 learn leadership skills by playing sports.

“It was a good learning experience, and it was a lot of fun,” he adds. “The children had fun. I work with great people and it’s a great environment. I definitely recommend it.”

Some of the placements this summer included:

– Assisting the Kenora Makwa Patrol with front-line patrols and in-office tasks,
– Supporting the Kenora Youth Hub with event planning, cultural activities and community outreach,
– Helping run summer programming with Niigaanning Bimaadiziwin Developmental Services,
– Maintaining, supporting equine programming at KCA’s Youth and Family Wellness Camp,
– Supporting youth engagement in land-based activities at KCA’s Youth and Family Wellness Camp,
– Coordination of health promotion, sports with KCA’s Health Promotion/Sports and Recreation team,
– Assisting in the development of cultural resources in the area with KCA’s Cultural Services team,
– Supporting the Lake of the Woods District Hospital’s Indigenous Relations Department,

“It’s a great introductory program for people,” explains Summer Student Coordinator with the program, Josh Cameron.

“The goal is to build individual’s skills for future careers, whether that’s with KCA or elsewhere. It’s a great way to learn different skills. Last summer, I did labour at the camp. This summer, I’m in an office job. It’s a totally different experience. It’s a lot of fun. A lot of laughs,” he adds.

Cameron notes additional supports can also be provided to help alleviate any barriers to entry into the workforce, including transportation, dependent care, as well as the purchase of appropriate clothing for outdoor programming.

Those interested in the Youth Leadership & Employment Program are asked to contact humanresources@www.kenorachiefs.org for further information and application requirements.

We would like to say a big Miigwetch to Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong for their partnership on this initiative and for the support provided in order to provide opportunities to the youth. We look forward to continuing to work with them again in the future years and developing this program further.

“It gives insight into all of the different types of work that you can do within a large organization like KCA,” explains Marlene Elder, Program Officer for the Western Region of Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong.

“It’s a great way to show youth the opportunities they have, expose them to different types of work and potential careers that they can do. And they see that right in their home-turf,” she adds.

Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong works to support and promote training and employment opportunities for Anishinaabe people across Treaty #3 and provided KCA with the appropriate funding to host the program in 2023.