Campus Life  

OC Aboriginal Community Support Worker grad reflects on making a difference

ACSW certificate graduate Shannon Peltier

Upcoming info sessions spotlight learning and career opportunities for students

Shannon Peltier was inspired to train to provide support to Indigenous youth and families by her Nohkom (grandmother). She found that opportunity through the Aboriginal Community Support Worker Certificate program at Okanagan College.

The Aboriginal Community Support Worker (ACSW) program is just one of the College’s Continuing Studies certificate programs on display during info sessions this spring. The virtual sessions are designed to provide students with the opportunity to learn more about the programs, career paths and the employable skills they can gain.

“My Nohkom was an advocate and activist,” says Peltier. “She was a medicine keeper and spoke Cree, our language. I always want to make her proud. When I was looking for educational opportunities, I researched training that would lead me toward working with Indigenous youth and families.”

Peltier enrolled in the ACSW program, offered via the College’s Oliver Centre at that time, and graduated in May 2019. “Going back to school as a parent is daunting,” says Peltier. “But Okanagan College and the Osoyoos Indian Band made it accessible for me with supports to make the transition work.”

Her training led her to her current role as an Indigenous Education Advocate working with students at Southern Okanagan Secondary School in School District 53.

“The Aboriginal Community Support Worker certificate training looks very good on a résumé in this field due to the wide range of topics covered,” says Peltier. “The course work, covering leadership to mental health training and cultural teachings, is relevant to what I do on a daily basis and I have developed invaluable knowledge that has helped me in my connections with students.”

The ACSW program launched in 2016 in response to demand from Indigenous communities in the region and the growing need for community support workers in the Okanagan and across the province.

The training, developed in consultation with local Indigenous communities, equips community support workers from diverse backgrounds who are skilled, knowledgeable and culturally competent to work in Indigenous communities and organizations.

With many bands and First Nations providing social development services to their members, dialogue with Indigenous partners led the College to realize that there continues to be a need for individuals who are trained in a variety of supports and services while respecting, preserving and promoting Indigenous culture and heritage.

Program instructor Laura Hockman, BSW, RSW, M.A. who has been teaching this course since 2019, points out that this training offers a unique balance of cultural knowledge as a way of gaining an understanding of an Indigenous worldview and the role of a community support worker.

“Being able to work with students to learn practical skills and knowledge through the modules and then see them apply that knowledge in their practicum is rewarding,” says Hockman. “And following up later on and hearing of their experiences in the field and how they applied their knowledge and skills is great.”

“Individuals in the health and social services industry continue to move towards specialization, says Hockman. “Those with a broad knowledge of community support worker theory and specialised knowledge of the unique needs of Indigenous communities, families and individuals have increased employability.”

As for Peltier, she has plans to merge her background as a Red Seal Cook and Professional Baker with the skills she’s developing through her education and current role.

“I’d like to further my education to help families understand the benefits of eating and cooking together,” says Peltier. “The healing that comes from conversation and food is something I want to share with Indigenous youth and families.”

To assist those looking to build their skills or make a career change, Okanagan College is offering a range of info sessions that will provide details about upcoming training program. Find the full range of info sessions and register to attend online at okanagan.bc.ca/infosessions.

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