FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — A member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was at North Peace Secondary on Thursday giving area First Nations students a presentation on the Canadian Forces’ Bold Eagle program.
The program, which runs for 6 weeks during the summer, is open to First Nations youth living in western Canada and combines Aboriginal culture and teachings with military training. CDN Controls’ Community Relations Coordinator Alex Fanni said that last year, his company hosted a group of First Nations students from the North Peace at the Fort St. John office to learn about what it takes to embark on a career in the electrical and instrumentation trades. This year, Fanni got his company together with other industry partners including the Halfway First Nations leadership, NPSS, Canbriam Energy, Painted Pony, Progress Energy, ConocoPhillips, and Enbridge to help bring the program’s presenters to the school.
Bold Eagle recruiter and instructor Sgt. Cathan Perry spoke in front of 30 First Nation students from around the North Peace for close to an hour and a half inside the NPSS library last Thursday about the program itself. Sgt. Perry explained to students about the program’s focus on building teamwork, self-discipline, physical fitness, and teamwork for participants.
“It’s a youth development program, and that’s it,” said Sgt. Perry. “Do they have to stay in the military? There’s a recommendation, but no requirement. It’s not summer camp, you join the military and you get paid, you don’t have to pay.”
Sgt. Perry said that the six-week program helps bring participants out of their comfort zones to help them achieve a sense of accomplishment. He said that the program has a drop-out rate of only roughly three to five percent. Of the 114 participants that started last year, 104 graduated. Sgt. Perry explained that only three of those failed the program, with the rest having to drop out because of personal issues at home or due to injury.
Sgt. Perry credited the low drop-out rate to the presence of FSIN elders James Whitehawk and Shirley Constance in the program, who provide mentorship and guidance to the participants.
“They do a lot of work to keep kids that are scared about that comfort zone and want to go home, they keep them there.”
NPSS Careers Coordinator Jodi Hickey said that despite the difference in outward career path compared to last year’s trades training day, she doesn’t see much of a difference in this year’s program.
“I see it as providing the kids with opportunities and choices, and that’s what I want to bring to the kids. To show them what’s out there and what’s available. There’s so many options for kids nowadays.”
Hickey said that the school has been greatly increasing its outreach that career organizations have been performing in the School District in recent years, adding that she feels that the District has even surpassed that of districts in major population centres in the province. That centimeent was backed up during the Community Development Institute’s presentation to the Fort St. John Committee of the Whole on Monday, which shows that Fort St. John’s rate of high school dropouts has fallen to nearly the provincial average after being much higher just 10 years prior.
Sgt. Perry said its highly likely that the Bold Eagle program will be back to make another presentation next year. The program runs from July 9th to August 16th.