CHARLOTTETOWN, Pa. — Jamie Lee Augustine remembers a time several years ago when she felt lost.
The Charlottetown resident was a stay-at-home mom for many years, but at some point she realized she lacked the skills she needed to find a job and important soft skills that she wasn’t taught in school.
She also felt a sense of cultural loss.
Augustine was born on the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, but although he was raised in an adoptive family, he did not grow up immersed in Mi’kmaw culture.
“It was hard finding my own identity because I didn’t feel like I was Indigenous and I didn’t know much about being Indigenous, like my culture,” she said on September 25. He told Saltwire in an interview on Sunday. .
After devoting time to her children in their early stages of development, she decided to focus more on her own personal growth.
“I decided it was time to begin the process of growth and healing. It was about finding a culture and doing what was better for myself and my children.”
She enrolled in a program offered by the P.E.I. Native Council called “The Way Forward.” The program aims to help Indigenous youth living off-reserve gain employment experience.
“I’m so proud of myself, from where I came from to where I am today. It took a lot of hard work and determination, and a lot of support from my support group.” – jamie lee augustin
That was three years ago. Currently, Augustine works as a receptionist for the City Council, has earned his GED, and plans to pursue further education in accounting.
Her ultimate goal is to establish her own business, centered around craftsmanship inspired by her culture.
“I’m so proud of myself, from where I came from to where I am today. It took a lot of hard work and determination, and also a lot of support from my support group. ” she said.
Nancy MacLean, Employment and Training Coordinator with PEI Native Council, said like Augustine, many Indigenous youth face many challenges in finding employment.
Apart from a lack of critical skills, one of the key challenges is a lack of education, McLean said.
“Many of these young people have slipped through the cracks of the public school system. It’s a big challenge. If you don’t have a Grade 12 or a GED, your career path is going to be very limited,” she said. I did.
McClain, who has been running The Way Forward program for about five years, said its success lies in helping participants enroll in or plan to pursue a GED program.
“Or, if they have a Grade 12, start thinking about careers. Think outside the box. What is your dream job? How to get your dream job What can we do to support you on your journey?”
Through the program, Augustine found his dream job as a business owner and is well on his way to achieving it.
Aside from her day job, she creates custom Indigenous artwork such as traditional earrings, dream catchers, and necklaces.
This program wasn’t just about entering the workforce. It was also a way to reconnect with her culture.
Through it, she learned to create Indigenous art, learned different drum songs, and immersed herself in cultural activities, from prayer to gratitude for the land. Now she involves her own children in these activities so they can learn about their heritage.
And she’s learning Mi’kmaw. Her Mi’kmaw name is Kitpu pi’gun Epit, or Eagle Feather Woman.
“I’m slowly learning to speak again. Like, get my stuff back,” she said.
wall of success
Back at MacLean’s office at the Native Council, there is what she calls the “Wall of Success,” filled with photos of students whose lives have been changed through the programs she has run over the years.
A photo of Augustine hangs proudly on its wall.
“When I work with them, I’m always amazed at their resilience. They’ve faced barriers and challenges that they couldn’t overcome on their own, for whatever reason. When they come into the program and have the support of the program, they build on the beliefs that they have within themselves,” MacLean said.
“They haven’t lost hope. They need help and it’s very rewarding for us to be able to support them and take that next step.”
Thinh Nguyen is a business reporter for SaltWire in Prince Edward Island. He can be reached via email. [email protected] and followed X @thinhnguyen4291.
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