Cindy Ottertail always has wanted to be a nurse.
She applied for the program in the past, but didn’t have the necessary requirements.
But after hearing about the Pre-Health Sciences program being offered at Seven Generations Education Institute here, Ottertail knew it was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
That’s why Ottertail, along with her daughter, Shania Atatise, and Atatise’s boyfriend, Kamandi Quill Jr., moved from Lac La Croix First Nation to Fort Frances, where they’ll be taking the Pre-Health Sciences program together.
“It’s pretty scary to return to school after so many years,” admitted Ottertail, though adding she finds comfort she will be doing it with her family by her side.
“We will be going through the same struggles together, and will give each other that support and that extra push when needed,” she reasoned.
And after last Wednesday’s orientation session offered for students heading into post-secondary programs at SGEI, Ottertail’s nervousness has morphed into excitement.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” she enthused.
With classes starting up yesterday, Ottertail wasn’t the only student anxious to participate in some of SGEI’s newest programs, which also includes a Building Construction Technician program and an Esthetician program.
Caelynn Watson, Sarah Gustafson, and Danni Mainville are taking the Esthetician course, which is being held off-campus at 306 Scott St.
Formerly a dance studio and retail space, the location has been transformed into a beauty salon.
“I took the introduction program through Confederation College a few years ago, and I wanted to continue and get my diploma,” Watson noted.
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in,” said Mainville.
“I do my own hair and nails all the time, so I thought I should finally learn to do it on other people.”
Mainville added she finds esthetics therapeutic.
“I think it’s going to be more than I expected,” she said about the program, adding she’s excited about all the hands-on teaching.
“It’s always more fun when you get to do the things you’re learning,” she reasoned.
While Mainville is looking forward to learning about eyelash extensions, Gustafson can’t wait to try her hand at manicures and pedicures.
“We’ll be working in partners, doing it on each other,” she explained.
“It should be a really good experience.”
Meanwhile, brothers Andrew and Troy Kingbird of Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation will be part of the Building Construction Technician program, which will be held at a site on Sixth Street here.
“We both have been labourers and we really like it as we were working, so we figured we’d take the course and get some more experience,” said Andrew Kingbird.
“I really like the hands-on and hard work that you put into it,” he noted, adding he also enjoys seeing the finished project afterwards.
His brother said he’s excited to learn about building houses—the proper way to do things so they’ll be able to do it on their own.
In fact, the pair is hoping to get right to work once they’ve completed the 42-week program.
“I’m feeling pretty confident,” Kingbird said about heading into classes. “It’s what we’ve been doing.
“We just need to learn about the technical stuff.”
Don Eldridge, SGEI’s post-secondary co-ordinator, said he feels it is shaping up to be an exciting year with the new programs offered.
For instance, he noted the Pre-Health Sciences program was introduced with the anticipation of bringing in a nursing program in 2017.
“We find that a lot of students, as they are coming out of high school, think late in the game that they want to go into the medical field,” Eldridge explained.
“So as a result, this Pre-Health Sciences program was designed to give them the skills and the science background that they are going to need to be able to go into a nursing program.”
In addition to the new programs, SGEI is continuing with a third cohort of students in its Welding Techniques program, the second year of its Community and Justice Services program, as well as its ongoing Bachelor of Arts program.
Eldridge said they are able to offer this post-secondary programming through partnerships with other institutions, including Lakehead University, Canadore College, and Sioux College.
SGEI also has partnered with the Rainy River District School Board for the welding program, which is offered at Fort Frances High School
Eldridge stressed the satellite campuses for the building construction, esthetics, and welding programs all are state-of-the-art.
“We’ve set up full-scale, brand new shops,” he enthused. “We have all new equipment, which is exciting.”
Eldridge added SGEI has put a real focus on technical programs in Fort Frances for the past few years.
“There’s obviously a need for training people in technical backgrounds,” he remarked, noting he’s pleased to see the number of students up from last year.
“We’ve got about 70 students at the Fort Frances campus,” Eldridge said, adding there are high school and adult education students locally, as well.
“It’s a banner year for us,” he remarked. “Last year was a good year as we were consolidating and putting things together, and this year it’s really taking off for us.
“It’s a fantastic year and it’s just going to get better.”