Blackberry Technology Key To Business Network for Aboriginal Youth

Leadership in Aboriginal post-secondary education is rooted in Cape Breton University’s vision of academic excellence. Demonstrating its ongoing commitment to this model of education, the University is launching the Business Network for Aboriginal Youth, led by CBU’s Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies, Dr. Keith Brown. This two year pilot program aims to enrich the lives of Aboriginal secondary students by helping to manage the transition from high school to university business education.

The program will begin with the inaugural Nova Scotia Aboriginal Youth Business Mentorship Conference being held at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre on March 5-6. The goal of the Business Network for Aboriginal Youth is to strengthen academic development through the emulation of positive peer role models. Using BlackBerry technology it will link 30 Aboriginal students, grades 9-12, from all across Nova Scotia via social media. The program has representation from 12 of the 13 First Nation communities in Nova Scotia as well as Métis and Inuit participants and it is believed to be the first program of its kind in Canada.

“The Business Network for Aboriginal Youth engages teenagers from across the province through their own language – texting and Facebook. It will help to break down the sense of isolation felt by some students as a result of their geographic location in the province and provide peer support for students with an interest in pursuing business as a career. The program has been very well received by students and business professionals. We had close to 200 student applicants, which speaks volumes to the program and its purpose. We are very excited and eager to get it started,” says Dr. Brown.

Students have been divided into groups of interest that include marketing, tourism, accounting, entrepreneurship, economics and management. To enhance the level of interaction, these same groups are also designated in the Blackberry Messenger forum, with a mentor paired with each group. Keeping with the theme of using social media, prior to the conference students were asked to create a video on their community or on a unique business idea that they could market to their community. This component of the conference provides an interesting opportunity for the Crawford research team to further understand the youth perspective on economic development. The videos will be viewed at the conference and then uploaded to YouTube.  

Tonight, Dr. Brown will be joined by Nova Scotia Premier and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Darrell Dexter, CBU President John Harker, Chief Terrance Paul of Membertou, Nova Scotia Deputy Premier Frank Corbett, mentors and students, among others, at the opening ceremony. The following day will start with a key note address from APTN Aboriginal Comedian, Candy Palmater, of The Candy Show, who is also the Director of the Nova Scotia Department of Education Mi’kmaq Liaison Office. She’ll discuss barriers faced and challenges in starting a business as well as her own successful experience. The day will also include break-out sessions with mentors, motivational speakers and team challenges.

In January, The Globe and Mail reported that Nova Scotia is one of two provinces that have created a formula for success in Aboriginal education, with more than 70 per cent of Mi’kmaw students graduating at the high school level. Through programs such as the Business Network for Aboriginal Youth, Cape Breton University is contributing to that success and as a result of a collaborative approach with Aboriginal community leaders CBU leads the way at the post-secondary level.  “Our 35 year history in Aboriginal post-secondary education is seen as progressive and responsive. Initiatives such as the Business Network for Aboriginal Youth allow CBU to uphold this reputation,” says Brown.

A second conference for the Business Network for Aboriginal Youth will be held in Millbrook, N.S. in June of this year.

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