Premier Heather Stefanson and Advanced Education and Training Minister Sarah Guillemard visited The University of Winnipeg’s Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre on Monday, April 24 to hear how its innovative and accessible programming is strengthening future leaders in our province.
The tour of Wii Chiiwaakanak’s computer lab and classrooms included an overview of the centre’s history, programming, and community engagement model. All of the centre’s programs are free of charge and open to everyone, regardless of age, knowledge, or ability.
“The incredible impact that Wii Chiiwaakanak has on children, youth, and adults in our community is an important story to share,” Dr. Todd Mondor, President and Vice-Chancellor, said. “The 15 culturally rich programs they offer—such as STEAM camp, Pow Wow Club, women’s self-defense, and Ojibwe language classes—create meaningful, life-enriching experiences that empower participants to reach their full potential.”
Angeline Nelson, Wii Chiiwaakanak’s Director of Community and Learning Engagement, shared how she and her team maximize available grant opportunities. Last year, Wii Chiiwaakanak secured new federal funding to triple the size of its free STEAM camp, enabling more Indigenous youth to experience everything from chemistry experiments to computer coding.
“Our team appreciates the time Premier Stefanson and Minister Guillemard took to learn about the Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre,” Nelson said. “We welcomed the opportunity to share about our commitment to Indigenous language revitalization, cultural programs, and building pathways to education through our STEAM outreach initiatives. As a team, we feel privileged to engage Indigenous youth and families through the many programs, events, and partnerships of the centre.”
I want to commend the dedicated staff and volunteers for their commitment to provide accessible educational programming and community supports for inner-city students and families.
Premier Heather Stefanson
Julie Hiebert, Wii Chiiwaakanak’s STEM Program Coordinator, recounted student success stories and explained how staff overcame programming challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Allison Besel, Program Coordinator for the Spence Neighbourhood Association, praised Wii Chiiwaakanak’s community partnerships, such as a Kingfisher Foundation donation that enabled Wii Chiiwaakanak to donate 28 laptops to families in need in 2021, when Manitoba schools were under a remote learning directive.
Premier Stefanson and Minister Guillemard also heard from Melissa Anderson, a previous STEM Facilitator and a parent whose child is enrolled in STEM programming at Wii Chiiwaakanak.
“It was a pleasure to tour Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre with my colleague Minister Guillemard,” Premier Stefanson said. “I want to commend the dedicated staff and volunteers for their commitment to provide accessible educational programming and community supports for inner-city students and families. I look forward to continuing to see the positive impact this centre will have in fostering stronger communities and supporting the future of our children and youth.”
Wii Chiiwaakanak served more than 2,500 people last year, 72 per cent of whom are Indigenous and 87 per cent of whom are aged 19 and under. Many newcomers to Canada also access Wii Chiiwaakanak programming.