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Family focus at Aurora College grad

Kassina Ryder
Northern News Services
Published Monday, April 30, 2012

Friends, family and staff gathered at the Thebacha Campus of Aurora College in Fort Smith on April 20 to celebrate the graduation of more than 40 students.

Jeff O'Keefe, vice-president of education and training, said college staff strives to create a family-friendly campus, which he believes contributes to educational success.

"I think it's our family environment," he said. "We recognize here that students that come to us often come with a family."

O'Keefe said everything from orientation day to campus activities are open to both students and their families, which helps ease the transition into college.

"We know if their families aren't happy here, they aren't going to be happy here," he said. "We know it's an integral part of student retention for us."

Paul Boucher received his business administration certificate during the graduation. He said both the college campus and the community of Fort Smith are family-oriented.

"We go to the recreation centre and it's free for college students," he said. "To me, that's very helpful in terms of going out for family events. There are a lot of family events in the community."

Boucher, who is from Fort Resolution, said after spending many years of wanting to go to school for business, he finally made the decision and applied for the program.

He has finished the certificate program and has secured summer employment in Fort Smith. He plans to continue his education by entering the college's business administration diploma program.

Boucher said he believes the campus is especially important for students from isolated northern communities.

"A lot of kids come from isolated, smaller communities in the North," he said. "This is a great stepping stone for them."

O'Keefe said students come from as far away as Tuktoyaktuk to attend school.

"We make sure there are opportunities for them to experience cultural activities throughout the year," he said. "We try hard to make it feel like it's a community, not just a school."

Garrick Lafferty graduated from the Environment and Natural Resources Technology program. Originally from Hay River, Lafferty said he heard about the program from a former instructor.

"He made it sound quite wonderful," he said.

Lafferty said he plans to attend the University of Alberta's environment and conservation sciences program in the fall.

O'Keefe said the number of graduates of the Aboriginal Language and Cultural Instructor certificate program was higher this year. He said many of the students in the program are already teachers and the program is offered on a part-time basis.

"They can't really study full time, so we work with the school divisions to make sure we build it is as professional development," he said.

He said whether students decide to go into the workforce or continue their education, he has high hopes for the graduates.

"I just want to wish them all the best of luck in their future studies and their future careers," he said. "I think the education they get when they're with us is top-notch. I believe they will be well prepared."

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