In my role as Project Manager with the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies at CBU, the busiest time of the year is, without a doubt, late September through early December. Beginning in late September we enter schools to encourage Aboriginal high school students across Nova Scotia to apply for our mentorship program, the Business Network for Aboriginal Youth (BNAY). This year I was lucky enough to have four BNAY grads assist with the school presentations: Brad Paul, Kyle Simon, Michaelia Drever, and David Falls.
The very difficult selection process took place this year in late October. Out of the 106 applications received from 24 high schools, 30 students were chosen. By the time students were chosen, plans for the opening conference in early December were already well underway. Coordinating transportation, accommodations, meals, and 2 days of activities for 30 students from 16 high schools, from Yarmouth to Membertou and everywhere in between, is no easy task. However, it is certainly manageable due in large part to the help of many here at CBU, our six fantastic mentors, and the four aforementioned program grads. It is all well worth it when I see these future Aboriginal business leaders gather for the first time!
With this year’s opening conference, I found myself a little bit more anxious and excited then in the previous two years. BNAY grads made presentations on behalf of CBU at half of the targeted schools, which meant there was a very good chance I would be choosing students for the program that I had yet to meet. Students are required to complete a two page application and submit a letter of recommendation written by a teacher or a community member, but it is still nice to be able to put a name with a face during the selection process. Nine students from four schools I hadn’t visited were chosen, meaning I had yet to meet 30% of the students prior to the opening conference – hence, the added anxiousness and excitement. I’m sure this sentiment was also felt amongst some of the students as well. Students travelled, some as much as 700 kms, to attend a conference coordinated by an organization (CBU) whom many had never interacted with before. When the bus arrived following a long 8.5 hour commute, off walked a large group a confident, polite, professional, and friendly Aboriginal youth who were eager to interact and explore business! What followed was two great days that were both educational and fun for all those involved! I was very proud of how each and every student behaved while they attended the conference. They all represented their communities and schools very well!
Highlights of the conference include:
- Tour of CBU Campus
- Entrepreneurship simulation
- Visit to the Membertou Heritage Park
- Presentation by Eskasoni Cultural Journeys
- Intro videos created by students
- Group activity on logos and branding
- A closing round dance
- The Purdy Awards
There was also a video produced using footage from the opening conference. This video will be used to promote the program as we expand from coast, to coast, to coast!
Until the group comes together again in May 2014, social media and Smartphone technology will be relied on to keep our students connected with their mentors. Students will be working on bi-weekly business challenges facilitated by their mentors – the first of which was posted to our Facebook group on December 18th. Each group works on a different activity, and this time the challenges were focused on: Ulnooweg Development group, preparing a business plan, analyzing TV commercials, tourist attractions within first nation communities, and one group was required to create a newscast focused on Aboriginal economic development. The main goal of these challenges, and this program, is to help our students explore business opportunities. After spending a few days together in person, and interacting online for a few weeks, we are well on our way!