A wave of relief came for 32 students on Wednesday as they officially became graduates of the Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS) college program.
Likewise, NS administrators breathed a sigh of relief because they received a commitment from Nunavut’s education minister during a graduation ceremony address that territorial government funding for the NS program is being restored. There was an outcry in March when the minister of Family Services announced that $175,000 in annual support for NS wasn’t going to be renewed. That represented close to 11 per cent of the program’s finances.
“The funding issue has been resolved,” said longtime NS coordinator Morley Hanson, who added that he will also be returning to the program for at least a couple more years.
There were 26 graduates from the first year of the NS program on May 15 and six from the second year. Six more students are eligible to graduate in December through the new third year of the college program. Hanson said they are doing “exceptionally well.”
All told, NS has produced more than 500 graduates in its 33-year history.
Lena Korgak-Stokes of Iqaluit, a brand new graduate of the two-year NS program, said her education has helped her better grasp her identity.
“I’ve always struggled with not feeling ‘Inuk’ enough, and looking back and seeing my growth as an individual, as an Inuk, as a student, makes me proud,” she said. “The most memorable moments are when you see that in yourself but also among the other students and it is extremely empowering.”
Overcoming her shyness and finding the courage to leave home to attend school in Ottawa were challenges she had to overcome, she acknowledged.
Her plans for the next few months include working as a summer student for the Department of Environment, which has her excited. Longer term, she’s hoping to be accepted into the Environmental Technology Program at Nunavut Arctic College and then off to university for additional environmental studies. Then she hopes to work for the Department of Environment full-time.
The 2018-19 school year also saw NS in a position to offer accommodations to students for the first time as the program acquired three apartment complexes.
“The residence has been a wonderful addition to our organization. They’re quality, secure apartments a mere 15-minute walk away from our centre,” Hanson said. “With the exception of families, which we can’t accommodate in these apartments, we haven’t had to find any other housing for students. We actually had a surplus of rooms which we were able to rent out to local students – something which helps our revenues to pay for the buildings. So yes, we have enough capacity there to meet our needs.”