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Guidance doesn't end with graduation
Kalemi Dene School liaises with local businesses to get graduates apprentice positions

Meagan Leonard
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

For many students, the prospect of finishing high school and having to decide at 18 what they will do for the rest of their lives is a daunting prospect.

NNSL photo/graphic

Kody Baton, 19, sits at his desk in the office of Nadji Architects with a house model of his own design on Aug. 6. - Walter Strong/NNSL photo

Staff at Kalemi Dene School in Ndilo are working to re-envision this way of thinking by offering guidance and support services to students, even after they graduate. School principal Eileen Erasmus says the whole idea is to have more youth pursuing post-secondary education so they can take some of the jobs currently being filled by people from the south.

"We're really trying to go beyond Grade 12 with our kids, we're really trying to make sure they have a look at their different options," she said. "Even if they're out of school for a few years, we'll still help them if they want to go on to post-secondary school."

Erasmus said one of her former students left the territory to go to school in Grande Prairie and has since returned to work as an educational assistant in Ndilo; this is the type of thing they want to see more regularly.

"We need to build capacity. We need to have our people educated and running our schools and businesses," she said. "Anything we can do that encourages our kids to pursue post-secondary education is worth investing in."

Part of this is getting students through the application process, she said, adding the school has a program in place to help students who may not be able to pay college application fees.

"Every time you apply for college, there's a fee so we let the kids do some work around here to help pay for it," she explained.

Nineteen-year-old Kody Baton graduated from the school a year ago and is currently doing an apprenticeship at Nadji Architects. He said he was considering what to do after high school and Erasmus recommended he pursue a career in architecture or drafting.

"She said I had good talent in art," he told Yellowknifer. "I like to draw in my spare time and do sketches and paintings."

Erasmus said if students show an interest in a particular field, the school will approach businesses in the community to see if they would be willing to offer a co-op or apprenticeship position. She said Baton is the first student to receive one of the placements.

"He was looking at different career options with his high school teachers and we know Kody is a very talented artist," she said. "It would be a shame for him to not at least explore some options that look at his strengths."

Baton said he never really considered architecture before, but has enjoyed the projects he has been working on this summer which include designing and sketching an entire house plan, then building a scale model. Owner Kayhan Nadji has been instructing Baton and said he has continued to improve since he started, getting a strong grasp on the Autocad program, and the elements of design.

"Every day when I see improvement it makes me happy," said Nadji. "It's such a great way to contribute to the community."

Baton said creating the model was his favourite part and he is excited to get started on the next project, which is the layout for a log cabin.

He says when he finishes the apprenticeship he plans to go to Aurora College in Fort Smith for drafting.

"I think I'm doing a good thing," he said.

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