Matthew Thompson is on a mission.
The 20-year-old wants to become both a leader and a positive role model for Aboriginal youth. That’s why he and 15 other students enrolled in the first Aboriginal Youth Leadership program.
The program started this year and focuses on developing leadership skills for youth between the ages of 16 to 29 years old. First Nation traditions and values are the centerpieces of the program’s curriculum.
Thompson heard about the program through word of mouth and spent the past few weeks learning how to be a leader.
“It’s an opportunity to get involved in my community and become a role model,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a leader and always had great aspirations to make it to the top. I figured why not start now and meet people where I can make connections with later on in life. There’s lots of variety here.
“The name of this program has leader in it so I’m assuming I’m going to learn various qualities that a leader will need.”
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Thompson said he wants to go into politics and maybe one day become a Member of Parliament.
The class attended a media conference Thursday where the Ontario Trillium Foundation announced an investment of $43,000 for the program.
Stewart Kallio, co-chair of the program, said the program is about recruiting young Aboriginal leaders who are want to express themselves but find it difficult.
The funding will cover the cost of having the program run out of the Anishnawbe Mushkiki facility on Royston Court, developing a curriculum and other expenses.
“Often leaders don’t know their leaders, they don’t know how to be leaders and I think a program like this gives them a place to really come together with other leaders and develop,” Kallio said.
“They’re going to get a better grounding in their traditions, culture and history. They’re also going to get a very strong sense of what leadership is in a much broader scope not just in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal view of leadership.”
The funding was crucial because it’s the first time that the program is running, he said. It was a priority to, since it was the first time the program was running, offer it free of charge.
While this year’s program funding is secure, Kallio said they will be looking at other funding options in order to put on another session.
“Ultimately, we would like to see the program be self-sustainable."
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