Red River College has added yet another entry to its growing list of community partnerships aimed at bringing early childhood education training to residents of Winnipeg’s inner city.
Launched last week in partnership with the Urban Circle Training Centre and the University of Manitoba’s Inner-city Campus, the newly-opened Makoonsag Intergenerational Children’s Centre serves as the College’s first demonstration childcare centre, and represents its commitment to providing community residents with increased access to programs promoting child and family supports.
It’s the latest in a series of initiatives involving the College’s Community Services department and such community-based organizations as Urban Circle and Ndinawe. All of the programs are delivered within a two-block stretch of Selkirk Avenue, providing valuable opportunities to residents seeking to further their education while remaining in the neighbourhood.
“It’s an area where there are a lot of challenges, but also a lot of community strength,” says Janet Jamieson, Community Services Chair at RRC. “There are many local projects, and rather than replace things, what we try to do as a much larger organization is partner with local organizations and build on local strengths and make sure what we’re doing is really connecting with the interests of the people who are there.”
Makoonsag (meaning “many little bears”), a 52-space childcare centre for infants, toddlers and pre-school children, promotes a community-based intergenerational learning model that reflects Aboriginal cultural values while demonstrating exemplary care and learning for young children. Located at 527 Selkirk Ave., in the newly renovated site of the old Red Apple store, it’s the first demonstration childcare centre in Manitoba to operate via a partnership between a community group and a college.
“It will really exemplify the kinds of early childhood values we hold dear, and integrate those with the cultural values community residents hold dear,” says Jamieson. “We feel it’s a really great match and we have many commonalities: a strong interest in and closer connection to nature, building nurturing programs based on children’s interests, community involvement, having programs that are relevant to their lives, and supporting literacy.”
The College also builds on those shared values through the delivery of its two-year Early Childhood Education diploma, available since February 2011 at the U of M's William Norrie Centre campus (485 Selkirk Ave.), where essential life skills and cultural supports are again provided in conjunction with Urban Circle.
Yet another partnership — one that dates back to 2002 —is Urban Circle and RRC's Family Support Worker/FASD Certificate program, delivered out of Urban Circle’s Adult Learning Centre at 519 Selkirk Ave. This program utilizes RRC curriculum in training graduates to work in a range of Child & Family Services organizations, and has proven extremely successful, boasting low attrition rates and high employment outcomes.
“Our partnership with Red River College began in 1996 and has grown steadily over the years," says Eleanor Thompson, Director of Development at Urban Circle. "Red River College is respectful of Urban Circle’s holistic model of education, which is rooted in Aboriginal cultural teachings and history. The College recognizes the success of this model in meeting the educational and training needs of our community. Students are graduating in unprecedented numbers and are finding full-time employment in their chosen profession. We deeply value our partnership with RRC and we welcome the opportunity to extend this partnership to our new Makoonsag Intergenerational Children’s Centre. Makoonsag will provide opportunities for all generations to reclaim a way of life that will bring wellness and healing to future generations.”
The College benefits from a similar partnership with Ndinawe, a resource centre for at-risk youth. It’s through Nidinawe that RRC delivers the first year of its Child and Youth Care program for students who were previously street-involved, and are now interested in developing the skills required to help vulnerable youth. Many participants go on to complete the second year of the program at RRC, while others are inspired to pursue degrees through articulation agreements with the U of M and the University of Winnipeg.
"(Makoonsag) is a wonderful opportunity and a new asset for our community," says Ndinawe Program Coordinator Susan Berthiaume. "Each year we have struggled to assist our students with securing childcare spaces that are near the school. This will considerably reduce stress for individuals who are already juggling many new challenges by beginning or returning to school."
Red River College is Manitoba’s largest institute of applied learning, with over 32,000 full-time, part-time and apprenticeship enrolments annually.
Urban Circle Training Centre is a community-based non-profit organization that provides adult education, career training and employment for Aboriginal men and women, and operates in partnership with Red River College.