Fort High chosen
Fort Frances will be one of two sites in Canada where a pilot project that links aboriginal high school students with mentorships in accounting firms will be launched.
“The thrust of it is that, hopefully, more of aboriginal students will decide that they want to go into the profession of accounting,” explained Marie Allan, a partner at the BDO Dunwoody office here.
Alongside KPMG in Brantford, the local BDO Dunwoody office was chosen as the other accounting firm in Canada to be involved with the project.
“It’s truly a mentorship program,” noted Allan. “It’s not like a co-op placement, or something like that.
“It’s not envisioned that [students] would work in our office per se, but just that they would have more like a ‘big brother, big sister’ relationship, where it would be a professional that these kids would know.
“And maybe, in some way, that professional will influence them to decide to go into a profession such as accounting, or to see that there’s something past high school to possibly strive to get towards.”
The local BDO Dunwoody office first became involved with the pilot project a few months ago, with a meeting between Allan, the Rainy River District School Board, and representatives from the Paul Martin Foundation.
“As a pilot project location, that in itself is somewhat exciting; to be in on the ground floor like that,” Allan enthused.
The parameters of the pilot project are “not set in stone” so far, she noted, adding it would very much “depend on the student, the mentor, and what they want to do together.”
“Whether it be to talk about their future, or to actually look at concrete things, or just look at the general direction,” Allan explained. “It would be basically something that would grow from the relationship.”
The project is anticipated to be fairly long-term, she added, but a lot of it at this point still is being worked out since it is so new.
Jack McMaster, director of education for the Rainy River District Public School Board, credited the “pro-active” work of local chiefs, Seven Generations, and First Nations’ communities, as well as the work of the board’s aboriginal education leader, Brent Tookenay, for making this area especially suitable for a project like this.
So far there have been some meetings between the parties involved with the project, he noted, as well as a manual put together, and establishing some structure for what direction it will take.
“We’ve looked at students’ marks and talking to students now, and hoping to place probably two students this year with BDO Dunwoody and see where we go from there,” McMaster added.
“I think this is hugely important when you start looking at just creating opportunities for kids,” he stressed. “We know that once students see the opportunities, and they get a chance to dabble in things, and start believing in themselves, then they start looking to the future, and that’s what this is all about.”
“I think that these types of programs are obviously important for all young people, wherever somebody is willing to give them another point of view,” echoed Allan. “I think that’s great. We can all use that.”
Allan also admitted to some “selfish” reasons for the project—she hopes these aboriginal students will go into accounting and want to come back and be future employees at BDO Dunwoody, or at organizations where BDO Dunwoody currently is the accountant for.
“It’s certainly an interesting opportunity, and certainly something different than we would normally be involved with day-to-day,” added Allan. “So we’ll see how it goes, and I hope it goes well!”