[URBAN NOTE] “John Abbott College’s new program supports Montreal’s Inuit students”
At MacLean’s, Emily Baron Cadloff describes a program set up by a Montréal CEGEP to meet the needs of Inuit students from the northern Québec region of Nunavik, to migrate south for education.
In 2009, Alicia Aragutak ﬁnished high school in her hometown of Umiujaq, on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay. She was one of three students to graduate, and one of two from the remote, ﬂy-in-only community of 400 people to study in Montreal, 1,245 km away.
Arriving in a huge metropolis “was a rather shocking experience for me, since I lived in one of the smallest towns in Nunavik,” says Aragutak, now president of the non-proﬁt Qarjuit Youth Council. She enrolled at the English-speaking John Abbott College, a Montreal CEGEP with close to 600 students at the time, which was more people than Aragutak had ever seen.
Nunavik, the northernmost region of Quebec, is home to more than 12,000 people, the majority of them Inuit. Many young people like Aragutak, now 25, have never been away from home, let alone lived in residence at a college. But getting a post-secondary education, she explains, is expected. “I knew at that time my future would require some kind of education.”
Every year since the formation of the Kativik School Board (KSB) in 1975, Inuit students from all over Nunavik have travelled south to a CEGEP. More than half of the 100 students currently away from home for school ended up at John Abbott, which offers a two-week college preparatory program to help introduce young Inuit to life in the city. It also helps Inuit students form connections. “You get to know your classmates, but it’s not as close-knit as it is up north. So when you’re in the same environment as people who are going through the same changes as you, it’s comforting,” says Aragutak, who studied youth and adult correctional intervention. “And you feel like you’re not alone.”
Now, thanks to a $667,000 federal grant, the Kativik School Board is going a step further, introducing a one-year, general education pilot program in September 2017 called Nunavik Sivuniksavut.