Red River College paid tribute to the academic potential of its Portage-area students, while celebrating the diversity of their cultural backgrounds, at the official opening of the College’s new Portage Campus yesterday.
The ceremony marked the campus’s move from Southport (just outside Portage la Prairie) to the old Victoria School site off the city’s main thoroughfare. It also marked the College’s continued commitment to providing increased access to education for rural residents and Aboriginal learners.
“Today is a bit of a historic event for Red River College — we have never opened a campus in the traditional way of the First Nations people,” said RRC President Stephanie Forsyth, herself a member of the Tsimshian First Nation in B.C., before kicking off a ceremony that featured greetings from provincial, civic and First Nations leaders, as well as a traditional pipe ceremony, dancing and drumming.
“We’ve had many campus openings, but what we have not done is try to fulfill the wishes of the treaties by having the two worldviews, the two perspectives, coming together this way to share in the ceremony.”
At present, more than 50% of the Portage Campus’s student population is Aboriginal, a figure that reflects not only the increased opportunities available to First Nation and Metis students in the area, but also the increased emphasis placed on education by students and community leaders alike.
“We promote education as our No. 1 priority — as a way out for our students and our people, in order for them to progress in society and become successful,” said Chief Irvin McIvor of the Sandy Bay First Nation.
“In 1952, there was one native student in Canada going to university. Today in 2011, we have thousands and thousands and thousands. We’ve really progressed as people and as nations.”
Portage Mayor Earl Porter paid homage to the region’s longstanding ties to agriculture, noting the new campus marked a re-investment in the community as a whole.
“A lot of our kids go off to Winnipeg to go to school, but they don’t always want to come back after they’ve seen the big city,” Porter said. “It’s nice to have something here that will help retain some of our kids after they graduate.”
The newly-renovated building provides far more physical space than the Southport site, and allows for an expanded “campus concept” that includes study areas, student and staff lounges, instructor office space and a new special purposes room.
Southdale MLA Erin Selby, Minister of Advanced Education and Literacy for the province, said the campus represents a major step forward in delivering affordable, accessible training to all Manitobans.
“I’m really excited that this space will continue to be used for its original purpose — to educate people and enrich their lives and provide a future generation of learners with the education and training they’re going to require to succeed,” said Selby.
Click here to learn more about the new Portage Campus.