Today I had the pleasure of touring a small group of grade nine students from Buffalo Head Prairie School, in Buffalo Head Prairie Alberta. Ever been there? Ever heard of it? Yes and Yes.
GPRC has a campus in Grande Prairie, and one in Fairview. Grande Prairie is a city of about 50,000 people. The city has the amenities needed and serves a region of about 350,000. Every year about this time, there is an influx of grade nine students from the far north of Alberta coming to town for tours. They usually stop in at the Fairview Campus for a tour of the facility and programs, make their way to GP, where they go to a movie, spend the night at the Super 8. Following day a tour of the college and campus with me, then an hour or so at the climbing gym.
So how many of these grade nine kids have ever been inside the college? A couple. How many have friends or family that have attended or currently attend the college? A few. How many know or have put any thought into what they might like to do after grade 12? About 3. How many have passed by the curvy brick building on their way to Costco with their family? EVERY SINGLE ONE!
Tours like this are easy with a group of disciplined, courteous children. However, they are also complicated. How to engage a grade nine student from a remote rural community? A student that will probably be “first generation post secondary”? A student that really has no plans to finish secondary school let alone pursue a college education or apprenticeship training? Be flexible, be empathatic, be supportive and most of leave your judgement and personal experiences at the door.
It takes all sorts to the make the world go around. And to quote a former student “Douglas Cardinal wanted the brick uneven to show that you don’t have to perfect to go to college”. You get to know your audience over time, and groups like this one take a lot of work. They are shy, don’t ask questions and certainly aren’t ready to share their thoughts or ideas with a total stranger. At the end of my 90 minutes, I know that at least one of them will be applying to the nursing program for fall of 2013. I also know that it is important that they enjoy their youth realize they have options, and understand that they can be and do anything the imagine.