BONNYVILLE – The positive impact and long-term benefits stemming from the support First Nations Health Consortium has provided Northern Lights Public Schools’ (NLPS) First Nations students is nearly impossible to quantify – but not entirely.
In just a few years, the First Nations Health Consortium’s (FNHC) staff have assisted the school division by helping to secure funding to support over 120 First Nations students. Work remains ongoing between the two organizations as they to continue identify student needs and find ways to meet them.
On Jan. 23, Northern Lights trustees presented Brittany Gadwa, a regional service coordinator with FNHC based out of St. Paul, with a 2022 Friends of Education Award at a regular board of trustees meeting.
The health consortium took to social media following the award presentation writing, “We are incredibly honoured to have received this award and we would like to thank the Northern Lights Public School Board for this recognition. We look forward to continuing our work to help First Nations children across Alberta to access the supports and services they need.”
The Friends of Education Award recognizes individuals or organizations who are committed to improving education for Alberta students and who have made a significant contribution to education in the province.
“This collaboration is helping to address many of the barriers and gaps that affect student achievement and success for First Nations students,” said Board Chair and Trustee Karen Packard.
“Our staff are overjoyed to see the enormous impact these supports and services are already having on student learning in our classrooms and in the lives of students and their families.”
FNHC staff work closely with Northern Lights’ Student Services Coordinators to identify student needs and help compile the information required to submit Jordan’s Principle applications to access funding for much-needed supports and services for First Nations students.
The purpose of Jordan’s Principle is to ensure the federal and provincial government provides First Nations and Inuit children equal access to public services on the same terms as non-Indigenous children.
Student funding secured with the assistance of FNHC staff through Jordan’s Principle has made it possible for NLPS to provide individualized supports that the school division would not have otherwise been able to provide.
This includes providing educational assistants, accessing additional speech language, occupational therapy and physiotherapy sessions for students, transportation assistance, preschool fees, educational assessments, purchasing of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices to help students communicate, and much more.
“We are grateful for this partnership and the tremendous work FNHC staff are doing to support our schools and students,” said Packard. “We are excited about the opportunities this will provide for our students and the many things they will be able to accomplish as a result.”
FNHC is a collaboration between four First Nations health organizations from Treaty areas 6, 7, and 8 in Alberta. Its staff are comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of nurses, educators and child and youth social workers.
In addition to working with Northern Lights to address students’ school-related needs, FNHC staff also work with parents and guardians outside of education.
They help connect families to outside agencies, such as doctor’s offices and assessment clinics, assist with navigating children’s services supports, and help them apply for funds to cover things like child care, sports and recreation opportunities, and technology that can be used at home
In December, NLPS presented another 2022 Friends of Education Award to Lac La Biche resident and watershed expert Brian Deheer. Additional awards are expected to be presented at future NLPS board meetings.
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