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THUNDER BAY, ON: Kiikenomaga Kikenjigewen Employment and Training Services (KKETS) today hosted a graduation ceremony for 66 students successfully completing the 2017-2018 Aboriginal Skills Advancement Program (ASAP). Students obtained their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) with many also completing their post-secondary entrance requirements. The graduation took place for the first time at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium in the traditional territory of Fort William First Nation and fell on International Women’s Day 2018.

ASAP is a one-of-a-kind adult education program that goes beyond the education essentials by incorporating the social, emotional, cultural and transition supports to the learner. Since its inception in 2012, ASAP has assisted 324 Matawa First Nations members in obtaining their Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).

Of the students completing the ASAP program since 2012, 52% (171) were women. Ensuring the equal participation of Indigenous women within the Matawa region in this program has been a priority for Matawa leadership including ensuring educational and training programs are in place to narrow the gap in employment and labour market participation amongst Indigenous Peoples. It is also aligns with the goals of gender equality and increasing the participation of women in the workforce in the 2018 federal budget which came down last week. Additionally, it aligns with the Ontario government’s commitment to women’s increased participation in education and the workforce. Acknowledging the accomplishments of ASAP women graduates today was an important step around the “Pressing for Progress” campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2018 which is a call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity.

The graduation ceremony included remarks from Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, KKETS Board of Directors, officials from the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Ministry of Community and Social Services, Lakehead School Board and the Lakehead Adult Education Centre. Chiefs from Aroland, Long Lake #58, Ginoogaming, Eabametoong, Marten Falls, Neskantaga and, Nibinamik First Nations, along with proxies from other Matawa communities also attended. Valedictorians were Margaret Boyce and Joseph Meeseetawageesic, graduating students from Eabametoong First Nation.

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