In 2018, Lillooet Tribal Council received a $236,650 grant from Northern Development through the Strategic Initiatives Fund program towards this $425,150 project. This has been a funding partnership of Northern Development, Bridge River Indian Band, Cayoose Creek Band, Lillooet District Library, Lillooet Tribal Council, Seton Lake Indian Band (Tsal'alhmec), T'it'q'et Administration, Thompson Rivers University, Ts'kw'aylaxw First Nation, and Xaxli'p First Nation
The Lillooet Tribal Council, with the support of Northern Development and many other partners, has successfully completed a one-year pilot project providing formal learning opportunities for students in Lillooet and northern St’at’imc communities through the Community Adult Learning Centre.
Created to fill the gap that was created in 2012 when Gold Trail School District’s Adult Education Centre closed, the learning centre welcomed 12 full-time students to its inaugural cohort in October 2018 and 15 students enrolled in the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program. By the end of the year four students received their Adult Dogwood, 10 completed their specific program, 20 continued their education and 12 found employment.
While success is sometimes quantified in numbers, in this circumstance it should also be qualified by difference it is making in lives and the broader community. During the pilot year of the program, members of the cohort were grateful for the opportunities afforded to them and their future.
Owen registered to complete his Adult Dogwood in 2018, motivated by a desire to set a positive example for his young son. His skills flourished and during the summer of 2019 he found employment as a tour guide with Xwisten Experience Tours, a position that requires public speaking skills and in-depth cultural knowledge.
Heather, another member of the 2018-19 cohort, decided to return to school so she could contribute to the families in her community. With a passion for working with children, Heather plans to enroll in an Early Childhood Education (ECE) program so she can transition from part-time to full-time work at T’it’q’et Daycare and Preschool. To be eligible to apply to the ECE program, Heather first had to upgrade her English and is now completing English 12. For Heather, being in the cohort program has made her more confident about being in school and strengthened social bonds; now she knows she is part of a community.
“Direct support to students has been our greatest success,” said Yvonne LaRochelle, Manager at the Community Adult Learning Centre through Lillooet Tribal Council. “We find each student has unique needs that require us to work together on finding a positive outcome. Once this is achieved, everyone that has been involved in the student’s journey is overjoyed and optimistic for the future.”
Investing in Lillooet and area residents is important for the economic future of the town. The provincial government has identified Lillooet as one of the communities most at risk from Mountain Pine Beetle impacts. Recent economic reports suggest that a tactic to support future economic prosperity in the area is to encourage community economic development and self-employment opportunities.
By providing hard working, motivated people with a supportive environment to earn their Adult Dogwood, or other certificates, this fulfills crucial labour shortages with more qualified people, while providing locals with improved job-possibilities in the long-term.
“Many of our students are juggling busy home lives and jobs in addition to being students,” continued LaRochelle. “We strive to support their learning efforts in a variety of ways outside the classroom. This includes looking after social or health needs, coordinating childcare and providing transportation. We’re so grateful for the support of all our partners who have realized the importance of supporting people while they pursue their education.”
The Lillooet Tribal Council received $236,650 through Northern Development’s Strategic Initiatives Fund for the initial year of operating the learning centre. The Strategic Initiatives Fund is a unique, proposal-based program. This format allows applicants to apply for funding for large-scale projects that aren’t eligible for more traditional funding programs, but which support economic transformation.