WES Program Graduation Ceremony

Workplace Essential Skills Program Graduates and Instructors Front row L to R: Catherine Bear, Instructor Stella Nicholas,  Marsha Sappier, Sheena Sappier, Tenikah Francis, Deanna Paul and  Instructor Sharlene Paul Back row L to R: Sharon Nicholas, Chelsey Nicholas, Ronni Sappier-Shirley, Trudy Perley, Teisha Perley, Denise Nicholas & Heather Bear Little Kaylice Perley (foreground) attended in support  of her mother Teisha & Mimi Trudy!  Graduates not in photo: Keisha Francis, Tessa Francis and Michael Sappier

Workplace Essential Skills Program Graduates and Instructors
Front row L to R: Catherine Bear, Instructor Stella Nicholas, Marsha Sappier, Sheena Sappier, Tenikah Francis, Deanna Paul and Instructor Sharlene Paul
Back row L to R: Sharon Nicholas, Chelsey Nicholas, Ronni Sappier-Shirley, Trudy Perley, Teisha Perley, Denise Nicholas & Heather Bear Little Kaylice Perley (foreground) attended in support of her mother Teisha & Mimi Trudy!
Graduates not in photo: Keisha Francis, Tessa Francis and Michael Sappier

Last week, I received an invitation to attend a graduation ceremony that was to be held on September 20th at Tobique First Nation.
 
A class of 15 graduating students would be receiving diplomas to certify their completion of a 5 month long Workplace Essential Skills Course.
 
The ceremony was beautiful, emotional and inspiring. We met upstairs in the TFN Fisheries building, where the classes had been held. We gathered in a circle and Course Instructor Stella Nicholas began by lighting a sage smudge to heal and clear the energy of the room and of each person present.
 
After the smudging ceremony, a Talking Circle was opened. Going around the circle, each person present was invited to speak of her experience, and what it had meant to her to participate in this class.
 

The Talking Circle is a sacred ceremony…what individuals share is confidential and not to be repeated to anyone not present. It is a beautiful and respectful way to communicate within a group. As each person speaks, everyone present listens quietly and without interruption as the speaker says what is in their heart.
 
As the circle ended, Course Instructor Sharlene Paul carried a bag containing small gifts around the circle. Each participant reached in and pulled out her gift. Sharlene said that everyone would get what they were meant to have!
 

WES Program graduate Catherine Bear receives her  diploma from Monica Antworth

WES Program graduate Catherine Bear receives her
diploma from Monica Antworth

The little gift bags contained a small semi-precious gem, each with their own unique properties. Some gems heal, others help their bearer to communicate more clearly, or inspire self confidence…they were truly lovely and meaningful presents!
 
Participating in this course had empowered these graduates in many ways. They made new friends, became closer to each other, and of course learned valuable skills.
 
All of the graduates said that the experience had transformed them, and helped them to find their voice! They also noted that they had built a new web of connections to help them as they step into the future.
 
Women’s voices are still not heard or valued in our world today, no matter what the culture. But, the world desperately needs to listen to women in order to heal and to come back into balance.
 
Women are the weavers of the threads of any community, and strides made by one woman empowers all women.

Sharlene Paul blesses the wonderful potluck buffet with a traditional sage smudge.

Sharlene Paul blesses the wonderful potluck buffet with a traditional sage smudge.

Gaining self confidence and self esteem gives women the courage to speak up, and the WES graduates all said that they felt more clear about who they are, and what they want to accomplish.
 
As the ceremony progressed, the room began to fill up with family and friends who came to celebrate the achievements of the graduates.
 
Tables lined one wall, and became loaded with food as the visitors brought a glorious variety of food….stews, pies, casseroles, soups, desserts, a roast turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, salads….a fantastic buffet feast to share after the graduation!
 
Sharlene Paul smudged the food to bless it before we began our luncheon. There were up to four generations of a family gathered at this ceremony to share in the accomplishments of the class members.
 
Sharing a meal with fellow community members deepens our connections to each other… connections that are completely lost when people eat solitary meals in their cars that they got in a bag through a hole in the wall from some corporate fast food joint!
 
The program was sponsored by the New Brunswick Department of Post Secondary Education, Training and Labour. Students attended the classes 5 days a week to learn 9 key skills that will help them when they apply for jobs, or, as many plan to do, continue with their education.
 

Some of the graduates plan to attend another related course that will begin next January, the Personal Support Worker Course.
The 9 Essential Skills that were covered in the course were:

  • Document Use
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Math
  • Digital Literacy & Computer Skills
  • Working with others
  • Continuous Learning
  • Oral Communication
  • Thinking Skills, which had 3 parts: Problem Solving, Decision Making and Planning & Organization.

Monica Antworth and Candace Downing presented the diplomas to the graduates, and congratulated everyone for the hard work and effort they’d put into successfully completing these classes.
 
Congratulations to all from the Blackfly Gazette, and thank you for inviting me to the graduation ceremony!

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