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City recognizes students' friend

Article Origin


Terry Lusty, Sweetgrass Writer, EDMONTON







page 6

If you are a northern Native who wants to attend school in the Edmonton area, look no farther than Nona German for advice.

If your home is in the Northwest Territories or Nunavut, and you wish to make the transition from north to south but need help with human, physical and financial resources, look no farther than Nona German.

German, a Metis born and raised in Yellowknife, was nominated for a Smart City Award in the category of educational partnership at a Jan. 31 noon hour luncheon at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton.

Surrounded by supporters, German listened as Mayor Bill Smith extolled the virtues of the nominees as "leaders and innovators charting the way" for others.

They're what makes the city work efficiently and, "everyone nominated should leave (here) with a sense of satisfaction," he stated.

A few of those on hand to express their support to German were Jane Woodward from Grant MacEwan College, Eva Stang from NAIT, Sandra Power from Concordia College, Peter Crossen from the University of Alberta and France Benoit, a friend from the NWT.

Over the past 10 years, German has opened all kinds of doors for northerners as the northern student services advisor for the Northern Student Education Initiative based at the University of Alberta.

German?s northern jaunts take her to Nunavut and NWT communities such as Cambridge Bay, Coppermine, Fort McPherson, Fort Simpson, Goa Haven and Pelly Bay. She meets with prospective students and community service representatives at schools, hamlet offices, nursing stations and government offices.

When not recruiting for Edmonton's university, colleges, flight schools and petroleum industry training programs, German can be found assisting students in ways that can help them make or break it in a world that is very different from the one to which most from remote areas are accustomed.

(See Smart on page 13.)

(Continued from page 6.)

One of the biggest hurdles her clients encounter is cultural differences, what's usually referred to as "culture clash," explained German. She can be reached at the University of Alberta at 780-492-7596.

"Just learning how to live in an urban environment," and surviving in it requires a tremendous effort on their part, she added.

Tutoring and assisting students with things that are common and everyday fare for southerners can be a nightmare for northerners who have never been south. Things such as banking, busing, seeking accommodation or employment, locating and shopping at stores, finding child care services and schools can all be frightful experiences.

German actually accompanies some, to provide personal introductions to caretakers, landlords, educators and administrators.

Then too, there's follow up to ensure that client needs are met adequately.

German tells of one student who a teacher reported as being inattentive and perhaps not eating. After a brief visit with the student, German discovered that his cheque was late and he was out of cigarettes.

"Fortunately, my sponsors understand those things and allow me to act accordingly," she said.

She got the client his cigarettes.

"Here was a student who, had he not got the cigarettes, may have just given up and gone back home to the North after putting in over three years towards his degree," she explained. "Wouldn't that have been a waste?"

The education system recognizes the significance of the special work provided by German. That's why they sought her out. Aside from the University of Alberta and the government of the Northwest Territories, additional partners from the corporate sector include the Bank of Nova Scotia, Bellanca Developments Ltd., Enbridge Pipelines Inc. and NorTerra Inc. If not for them, this necessary service could not survive.

For German, it's the "ultimate in a social work job." She finds herself continually assessing and evaluating students and their situations. She must base her assessment on a balance of both the technological and traditional var circumstances and balance the two.

To northerners the city is a fast life that's rife with challenges to people who become disconnected and lonely because they are hundreds of miles from family, friends and communities that are distant and cherished.

Creating community networks and maintaining them are critical. Recognizing one?s needs and adjusting to them is not always easy, but is essential, German concluded.

It's a unique partnership between academic institutions, private industry and government. In supporting the Northern Student Services Advisor, the partners are showing support for students in their quest to better their education and their employment opportunities and futures, not to mention that of their families and communities.

Although Nona German got a nomination but did not win an award, just being nominated is an honor and is an acknowledgment of the tremendous value others see in her. In the eyes of her peers, German and her efforts are highly regarded and an crucial link that "makes a difference."