Doors opening for Penelakut Island students

Penelakut Island Adult Learning Centre and VIU sign articulation agreement to offer courses on the Island.

Sharon Hobenshield and Tim Harris (seated) and

Sharon Hobenshield and Tim Harris (seated) and

Doors are opening for students on Penelakut Island, after the tribe’s adult learning centre signed an agreement with Vancouver Island University.

Representatives from the Penelakut Island Adult Learning Centre and VIU signed an articulation agreement Tuesday at the university’s Nanaimo Campus. This gives students a chance to take literacy and adult basic education courses such as science and math from VIU right on the Island without worrying about ferry schedules and without leaving their families.

Penelakut Island Elementary School and adult education principal Tim Harris and adult education teacher Sheila McKee worked together for months to achieve this agreement.

“Sharon Hobenshield and Jean Maltesen [at VIU] were instrumental in getting it done,” said Harris. “They want more First Nations communities to do these kind of agreements, but there are only a few of us on with VIU right now, so we feel pretty fortunate and lucky and glad.”

Harris calls this agreement historic because it’s the first of its kind with the Penelakut tribe.

“We’re quite pleased [students] can go to school and they can be accredited,” he said. “It’s also about brighter futures for the tribe and capacity building. More First Nations are going to be leaning towards self-governance, so this kind of helps in that sort of way when it comes to self-governing. Educating the community is important.”

Now that the agreement has been signed, Penelakut students can be VIU students and take literacy and adult basic education courses right on Penelakut Island, explained McKee.

Students can use the courses to receive an adult graduation certificate, or they can upgrade courses for post-secondary school, she noted.

“The university has been so supportive and helpful,” she said. “I’m really excited. People will be able to take courses and have a start and an end and have benchmarks. It will help people learn the skills and feel successful when they’ve accomplished something.”

“It’s important people are here and can be immersed in their culture, and they can hear the Hul’q’umi’num language,” she added.

Harris says he has seen a need for this agreement with VIU.

“There are students who were already enrolled, even before this agreement,” he said. “There’s already a pretty good enrolment, and we think that’s even going to increase too in the next little while when they see that the program is there.”

McKee also thinks there is a lot of interest in the VIU courses.

“Students are really excited to be able to take things they get credit for and to be a student at VIU,” she said. “It’s exciting it will be here, and I can’t wait until students get their first student cards.”

Harris and McKee will work closely with Hobenshield and Maltesen when it comes to assessments, fees, grades and certificates, explained Harris.

“We think it’s going to do a lot for the community,” he said. “People are happy about it; people are embracing it and are happy about the opportunities it could bring them.

“They are in such isolation, everything they do has to be around the ferry schedule and all that; it’s quite isolated, so having VIU going over to them, it opens more doors. Another part is setting goals for themselves as well; they have that ability to say by taking these courses, they can move on to furthering [their education].”

Harris thanks the Penelakut chief and council for supporting the program.

“They supported us in every way when it comes to this program,” he said. “It’s important that they support it because if they don’t support this, it’s not going to go very far, and they see a need for higher education too, which is good on them.”

He also thanks McKee for all her work.

“Sheila McKee was instrumental in this,” he said. “We made a pretty good team to get this done.”