Clearwater River Dene Nation
"Can I come to school all day? I just want to learn," commented a student in the Adult Upgrading Program. The opportunity to pick up where their previous formal education left off is available now. Chief Cheechum and his Council had often faced the dilemma of limited training funds and the expense of relocating adults wanting to upgrade. Part of the Clearwater River Dene solution has been to deliver its own Adult Ungrading Program and supplementing the program with some of the gaming profits distributed by the First Nations Trust. The adult upgrading program began in 2003-4 with 40 students -- mostly single parents and a few young people who had dropped out of school to meet family obligations or were not finding success in the mainstream system.
The Clearwater River Dene adult students come to school at the same time as their children, either at 9 am for basic education or 1 pm for GED preparation. They spend their classroom time on reading, writing, social studies, science and math. Group efforts are made to reserve some time on Fridays for outings, this encourages wellness and allows students to experience cultural activities. Students sometimes struggle to maintain a balance between home and school life, but have discovered that education is worth the effort and over the summer looked forward to school starting again.
The adult education program allows the students the opportunity to role model the value of education to the community and other communities as well. It gives the adults a sense of purpose and accomplishment, improving self-esteem in addition to furthering their academic knowledge. The program helps students conquer fears, overcome the challenges that may have delayed their schooling, as well as chart a course for their future education and that of their families. The program has several success stories and more graduates expected this year.