WINNIPEG, MB – Twenty students from diverse backgrounds and neighbourhoods have successfully concluded their 15-week YouthUnited@Winnipeg (YU@W) experiential learning program. The innovative course was based on the principles in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) Calls to Action. It was created in partnership with the City of Winnipeg, initiated by Winnipeg Councillor Brian Mayes and designed at The University of Winnipeg by Dr. Shauna MacKinnon, Chair of Urban and Inner-City Studies.
“The course is as an example of reconciliation in action,” said MacKinnon. “Non-Indigenous students and Indigenous students spent a good part of the summer together learning about inner-city issues and resiliency in a city-space that is largely Indigenous.”
The curriculum exposed them to a variety of community settings and cultural experiences with the concept of the “roving classroom” model. The first class was held at the newly opened Merchants Corner. Subsequent classes were held at a diverse collection of community spaces throughout the inner city, and were taught by experienced community practitioners. This curriculum exposed them to a variety of community settings and cultural experiences, and gave them tools to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions.
“My experience in class and at Ndinawe has been great,” said Chelsea Bannatyne, a double major student in urban and inner city studies and human rights. “My realization is how complex the concept of reconciliation is. I believe at the heart of Indigenous calls for action is to decolonize, so we can eliminate discrimination and other systemic barriers.”
Participating organizations this year included Ka Ni Kanichihk, Welcome Place, John Howard Society, Peaceful Village, and Graffiti Gallery, to name a few. Indigenous Elders and other Indigenous cultural leaders provided guidance as students explored what it means to participate in the process of reconciliation through community work.
“In my role as Councillor I often see the divides in this city,” said Mayes. “In YU@W we see a program that actually tries to bring together the suburbs and the inner city. I am very proud to be part of this effort.”
“I had a wonderful experience in the YU@W program,” said Riley Black, a political studies honours student. “I learned an enormous amount of useful skills for future jobs, and working in the inner city was a wonderful, eye-opening experience. I would recommend this program to any student, because of the valuable work experience and the ability to work in some great local organizations. I learned quite a bit about community practice in the inner city.”
Dr. Shauna MacKinnon (204-296-2091); and Councillor Brian Mayes (204-986-5088) are available for media interviews.