As part of its commitment to advancing Indigenous achievement in Manitoba, Red River College is enhancing the environment supporting Indigenous learners and continuing to expand educational opportunities.
As a post-secondary institution, Red River College (RRC) has a significant role to play in the journey towards Truth and Reconciliation, and healing between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples. By complementing high-quality, diverse programming with an environment that is welcoming and embeds Indigenous ways of knowing, RRC is supporting Indigenous economic growth, providing skilled workers to Manitoba communities and contributing to the healing of Indigenous students.
RRC now offers nine Indigenous programs designed to build the bridges that are required to grow Indigenous Manitobans into all industry sectors, with a focus on areas in which Indigenous Peoples are typically underrepresented or where there is a desire from the community to grow into a specific industry.
Programs are also designed to support students spiritually by teaching cultural competencies within a classroom setting— these come in the form of Elders’ teachings, sweat lodge ceremonies, sharing circles, land-based learning, special guest speakers and more. Students can take pride in who they are by learning about the history of their own people, which strengthens students as a community.
One of the most popular program models are Pathways, one-year programs that position Indigenous students for success in RRC health programs, engineering technology programs and, most recently, business, marketing, digital technology and hospitality programs. Pathways are preparatory, exploratory and transitional, and serve as stepping stones before students enter an RRC program. They are ideal for mature students returning to pursue careers in new industries or for students who don’t have the training that aligns with their areas of choice.
Pathway programs support students holistically. This means that while they are studying, they are learning how to be successful college students in a safe space: how to manage time, deal with stress and navigate a post-secondary institution. Pathways also create a strong network with other Indigenous classmates, instructors and support staff, whom students can return to for support throughout their post-secondary journeys.
“To come to this program and have so many Indigenous People wanting to work towards the same thing as you is a welcoming feeling. You feel like you have a place,” says student Jo-Dee Berthelette. “I love it. I don’t want to stop. I wish I could stay in school for the rest of my life.”
One of the newest RRC programs that empowers students to become agents of social change—either by working with community organizations or through entrepreneurship—is Social Innovation. This two-year program explores community engagement, sustainable development, inclusiveness, environmental stewardship, reconciliation and social activism, with an option to major in either Community Development or Social Entrepreneurship in the second year.
“I see a need in my own community, and I never thought that it could be me that could work with my community to help them. It was very empowering,” says student Jewel Murdoch.
The college’s Indigenous Student Supports offer academic tutoring, financial advising, counselling, spiritual advising, ceremonies and events, transition to employment supports, and navigation, in which staff walk alongside students navigating college processes, urban living, transportation, housing and any other barriers that may arise. Students have access to a medicine wheel garden, sweat lodge and two Indigenous Support Centres at the Notre Dame and Exchange District Campuses, both with kitchen facilities, a lounge area, a computer lab, telephones and bulletin boards with current events and career postings.