Empowering futures: Treaty 8 ELCC grads transforming their communities

May 9, 2024

Empowering futures: Treaty 8 ELCC grads transforming their communities

Lifelong learning is important to two sisters from Woodland Cree First Nation, 80 kilometres northeast of Peace River. The small reserve has four lakes and about 800 people who call it home. There is one school and a day care. The sisters, 64-year-old Wanda Laboucan and 59-year-old Rebecca Cardinal, have always had a passion for helping children in their tight-knit community learn and play.  It is one of the reasons why both were eager to enrol at NorQuest when the Early Learning and Child Care certificate was offered to the Northern communities.  

“Learning new ways to understand children opened my eyes to a different perspective. I really loved the approach of letting the child take the lead and learning how to understand what they want to do; otherwise, I would’ve kept doing it in a more traditional way like using flashcards,” said Wanda. 

“I love learning. You’re never too old to learn,” added Rebecca. “I love children and I love working with kids. Taking this course made me a better educator and really opened my eyes to how important play is.”  

This class created a new community of learning. Students in the Treaty 8 cohort of the Early Learning and Child Care certificate program connected online and at times in person. The two sisters not only encouraged each other, but also had an impact on their classmates.  

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Wanda for not giving up and pushing me to continue my own studies,” said Pamela Nokohoo, from Chip Prairie First Nation, south of Fort McMurray. 

All the students credit their NorQuest instructor, Sherry Duncan, with guiding them to the end of their program and ensuring that they cross the stage at convocation this May.  

“I didn’t truly understand what I was getting myself into,” said Wanda. “The nice thing is that the first time that I met Sherry, I told her I’m not going to do this, I think I’ll just give up. She said, ‘oh no you’re not,’ and here I am,”  

Ensuring no student was left behind was a focus for Sherry.  

“Whatever it took. We worked together, we worked hard,” she said. “These ladies worked so hard on their assignments, and they overcame every obstacle they faced.”  

One of the challenges Wanda and Rebecca experienced was a significant loss. Despite that, Sherry said the sisters never missed a class or an assignment.  

“I am so proud of all of them”, said Sherry. “So many students faced barriers. There were communities that were hit with the wildfires, and those students still never missed a class.”  

Now, 26 students are graduating and will be travelling to Edmonton for Convocation. The learners walking across the stage will be cheered on by their community members who have been their biggest supporters since their first day of class.  

“It was incredible to be a role model for my kids, and to show my kids what they need to do to be successful in their own education,” said Miranda Desjarlais, a mother of nine children, from Horse Lake First Nation. “They would watch me do my work and now they are so proud of how far we have come. To be able to share my graduation with them, I am so excited for that.”  

“I am looking forward to walking across the stage and being able to say to myself that I was able to do it when I did doubt myself a lot and being able to show my kids that I was still able to do it too,” said Pamela.  

Sisters, Wanda and Rebecca, are eager to cross the stage on Convocation day after encouraging each other for the last year to complete their education.  NorQuest’s convocation is May 30 and 31st at the Edmonton Expo Centre.