Seabird Island is once again being noted for its forward-thinking educational programs.
MP Mark Strahl visited the community on Tuesday to hear how a federally-funded youth employment program is changing the lives of those who take part in it.
“I’m hearing good news today,” he said in a phone call to the Observer.
“I’m out here for the morning to hear from the students and their administrators, teachers and program directors on how the Enhanced Service Delivery program is going. While the ESD is a federally-funded program, he said, it was only given funding because Seabird has shown that it was capable of delivering it successfully.
“They’re kind of a pioneer out in this region and we wanted to hear how it’s going, how to improve and what’s working,” he said. “Seabird recognizes, as a First Nation community, that education is the key to economic success and that’s why they are so focused on their young people. Anytime there is a program, Seabird wants to be a part of it and they have put a lot of their own resources into this.”
The ESD program targets youth ages 18-24 and helps them address barriers to employment, offering skills upgrades and other resources to help them succeed in the work force. Currently, 95 young people are accessing the services in Seabird. In B.C., the number is 250, and nationwide, 4,000 youth are involved with ESD.
“They received these funds because they were ready for them,” he said. “They were the only First Nations that could show capacity and ability to deliver.”
Strahl noted that even before Seabird’s youth are preparing for life after high school, they are encouraged to explore potential career options.
“They encourage them to think about what they do and what they want for a career,” he said, and try to employ youth in a number of different businesses and organizations within the band’s economy. “They rotate them through and get them some job experience.”
He said one of the highlights of his day at Seabird was seeing young students stand up and declare what they see themselves becoming, whether it was an electrician or a business owner.
The Seabird Island Enhanced Service Delivery program includes six affiliated First Nations: Seabird Island, Chawathil, Shxw’ow’hamel, Squiala, Cheam and Union Bar.
Chief Clem Seymour said they are focused encouraging members to be self sufficient.
“Seabird Island Band believes in the success of our people and empowering our members to achieve independence. With help from Enhanced Service Delivery, our youth and young adults are achieving self sufficiency through employment, reducing the dependency on income assistance and positively impacting our community,” he said.