Organizers say the first-ever Northern St'at'imc Health Careers Fair was a huge success as eager participants and intrigued students filled the gym at Lillooet Secondary School Mar. 6.
The Northern St'at'imc Health Careers Fair attracted hundreds of elementary, secondary and post-secondary school students from eight schools to explore what an exciting and rewarding career in health could look like for them. More than 30 booth participants, organizers and volunteers contributed their support, resources, information, time, and travel for the students.
"Holding an event to promote health careers has been on the minds of the Northern St'at'imc Hub Advisory Committee for the past two years," said Sue Wilson Cheechoo. She is the Northern St'at'imc Hub Coordinator for the Lillooet Tribal Council and B.C. First Nations Health Authority, who helped organize the event.
"This collaborative event is evidence of the relationships that St'at'imc Health Leadership are building with our partners in health locally and away from home," said Cheechoo. "We are hoping that this initiative, along with others, will lead to a 10-Year Health Human Resource Strategy in the Northern St'at'imc Territory. There are diverse career opportunities in health and we have a great need for health service providers."
The Careers Fair also provided an opportunity for networking among service providers, educational institutions, education coordinators, and health service employers.
Booth participants included local health services from T'it'q'et, Tsal'alh, Ts'kw'aylaxw, Xwisten, Xaxli'p, and Sekw'el'was, as well as the First Nations Health Authority, Interior Health Authority, BC Ambulance and Paramedics, Aboriginal Doulas, Midwives, Alternative Therapists, Dentistry, Lillooet Hospice, Nursing, Medicine, Mental Health, Youth Counselling, Health Literacy, Patient Navigation, Community Health Services and many others.
Educational institutions represented at the event included schools such as the UBC Faculty of Medicine, Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, University of the Fraser Valley, Justice Institute of B.C., Vancouver Community College, UBC Counselling and Psychology and the University of Victoria.
The fair also included St'at'imc Role Models in Health who served as "I can do it; you can do it too" examples for the students. RN Michelle Alexander is one of those role models. She was born in Tsal'alh, attended university in Washington State and now hopes to return to this area to live and work part of the year, spending the rest of her time in Washington.
Another accomplished role model is Roger John. He has a Master's in Education, is a professor of counselling psychology at the University of Victoria and is studying for his PhD in counselling psychology at UBC. John, also from Tsal'alh, studies and teaches psychotherapeutic cultural competence "through an indigenous lens."
"I was always interested in education," John told the News. "My dad was a real advocate for education. He only had a Grade 6 education and our mom went to residential school, but he always pushed education on us, so all eight of us graduated from high school, which was unusual in those days."
He says the program he's teaching at UVIC blends traditional spirituality and teachings about well-being with modern psychotherapeutic techniques. He is currently doing research with elders, knowledge-keepers and medicine people.
The event was attended by students from schools in Lillooet, Ashcroft, Tsal'alh, and Lytton. Upon arrival, students received a Health Careers Guidebook from the First Nations Health Authority to spur their interest and inspiration in health.
Sue Wilson Cheechoo told the News the field of health offers fast-growing, rewarding, and sustainable careers with a multitude of employment options. "The area of First Nations health is particularly booming in B.C. with the historic transfer of health services from Health Canada to the First Nations Health Authority late last year," she said.
This Careers Fair was made possible by Gold Trail School District 74, B.C. First Nations Education Steering Committee, Interior Health Authority, B.C. First Nations Health Authority, and Xwisten, T'it'q'et, Xaxli'p, Tsal'alh, Sekw'el'was, and Ts'kw'aylaxw.
"The Northern St'at'imc Community Engagement Health Hub, Lillooet Secondary School, and the planning committee extend a big thank you to everyone who helped to make the event a huge success, especially the booth participants, volunteers, Elder Ceda Scotchman, Chief Kevin Whitney, the teachers and helpers, and of course the students who attended," said Wilson Cheechoo. "Kukwstumulhkálàp!"