The Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board (HSCDSB) is one of only ten school boards in Ontario selected to partner with the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI) to offer the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program (AYEP) to its secondary school students next year.
This groundbreaking program, offered exclusively to First Nation, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) students, is expanding, and in September, HSCDSB’s program will be one of only 44 MAEI-sponsored programs operating in Canada. The program’s goals are to teach Aboriginal youth about business and entrepreneurship, encourage them to complete their high school education, and pursue post-secondary studies.
“We saw the need for a program such as AYEP for our secondary First Nation, Métis and Inuit students. We are confident this program will provide more than a hands-on experience in the world of business. It will provide a great learning experience and expand the horizons of these students in a relevant way,” said HSCDSB Director of Education, John Stadnyk.
“I think this is an amazing initiative. The method of delivery for this program is a great way to keep our FMNI students engaged. This program will give the students skills they can use beyond secondary school,” said HSCDSB Aboriginal Education Special Assignment Teacher, Mona Jones.
AYEP will immerse a selected group of students in entrepreneurial activities over a full school year. The students will create a business plan from scratch and then, after presenting it at the end of the first semester, they will be asked in the second semester to modify the plan for an e-commerce environment.
The students will be guided through the entire process of setting up a business model by their teachers, mentors from the local and First Nations business community, and specialists in the field of entrepreneurship.
“The underlying skills that students develop in this program will allow them to succeed in the workplace, university, college and life in general. That is really the value students will take out of this program. If they go on to start a business, that is an added bonus,” said teacher, Mike Flammia.
The HSCDSB program will involve approximately ten students from both St. Basil Catholic Secondary School and St. Mary’s College. Scott Chorney will teach the Grade 11 Introduction to Entrepreneurship at St. Basil Secondary, while Mike Flammia will teach the Grade 12 component at St. Mary’s College.
Although ten students may not seem like a large number, the Martin Foundation says research and prior experience shows that the program will work better in a smaller group setting.
“Even though our students had already selected their courses for next year, prior to us getting involved in this initiative, the interest expressed by the students we approached this spring has been tremendous. The Martin Foundation was very impressed with the student response,” said Scott Chorney, AYEP Lead Teacher.
The Board has initiated meetings to form partnerships with the education teams from Garden River First Nation; Batchewana First Nation; the Métis Nation of Ontario, Sault Ste. Marie; Sault College; Algoma University; the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation; Innovation Centre and Chamber of Commerce.
The local branches of Scotia Bank have followed others around the country in becoming a Financial Institution Partner. Along with providing guest speakers and educational resources, Scotia Bank has agreed to purchase business attire for all students in the program.
“Our students will be very proud to wear this business attire when working with program guest speakers or mentors and when out in the community on field trips,” said Chorney.
Partner groups of this initiative will be invited to a formal introduction of the program and the students who will comprise the inaugural AYEP class on Wednesday, May 28 at St. Basil Catholic Secondary School.