Students Cameron Garner and Mindy Philips unveil one of the two totem poles which now outline the door to Seabird College. MC Jason Campbell

Raising the poles of success at Seabird Island

First Nations band celebrates government approval at Seabird College and unveils two totem poles to adorn entrance

Official dignitaries, students, staff and citizens gathered to celebrate the forward movement at Seabird College last week.

In a windy outdoor ceremony, positive words flowed from the MC, the chief and other dignitaries about the importance of this moment, commemorated by the raising of two totem poles which outline the entrance to the local college doors.

“We’re taking care of something that really belongs to our children and grandchildren,” said Chief Clem Seymour.

The gathering was organized to unveil two new totem poles for the college and to celebrate the college’s recent approval from the Private Career Training Institutions Agency of BC (PCTIA). PCTIA, a Crown Corporation, sets basic education standards for registered private career training institutions in B.C. and establishes standards of quality which must be met.

Tyrone McNeil, Seabird College committee chair, spoke about the significance of the day.

“We’re identifying and giving recognition on the next steps of growth and education here in the community,” said McNeil.

He paid tribute to Diane Janzen, director of education for the Seabird Island band, and her team for the hard work they did to achieve the PCTIA approval.

“It means we’re delivering programs of a standard that the province recognizes,” said McNeil. “It’s not easy to be certified, but Diane and her staff have been diligent.”

He said in no way does this mean they are finished growing, but that it’s important to pause and celebrate this step.

Janzen spoke at the ceremony as well, explaining the two-year process for this milestone. She praised the Chief and Council and the Board of the College for having this great vision. She stated that Seabird College is unique, allowing adults who want to complete their high school education and train for a trades career to do both at the same time.

“We can’t have cookie-cutter eduction, because it doesn’t work,” she said, adding they have a “wrap-around” model of support to promote student growth and development.

The day was marked with celebration, as two totem poles were unveiled. The beautifully-handcrafted pieces of art feature a bear, a wolf and a beaver, representing the values of leadership, family values and work ethic.

The totem poles were carved by inmates at Mountain Institution in an ongoing collaborative partnership. Mountain Institution Warden Shawn Huish says this partnership helps the institution achieve one of their main goals, which is encourage the inmates to become law abiding citizens through partnerships such as this.

“The offenders that worked on those totems, many didn’t know their culture,” says Hewitt. “They began to learn about where they came form while working on the poles. They’ve actually had a chance for their hands to work on something good instead of evil.”

 

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