A version of this story was originally published in Say Magazine
When Chantelle Davis started working for Aarm Dental Group in the fall of 2019, she knew a successful future lay ahead. “I had other job offers, but I knew my worth. I wasn’t accepting anything less,” says Davis.
Chantelle accepted her new dental reception position after graduating from Vancouver Community College’s (VCC) Indigenous Dental Reception Coordinator program, which was designed in partnership with the Aboriginal Community Career Employment Services Society (ACCESS).
“I now have financial freedom and am better able to support my family,” says Chantelle, who is from the Nisga’a First Nation. She adds that support provided by VCC and ACCESS helped her be interview- and career-ready.
This fully-funded, nine-month Indigenous program starts with the ACCESS-delivered Essential Skills program that strengthens proficiencies like reading, oral communication, and working with others. Essential Skills prepares students to immediately tackle course materials with the confidence and creates a classroom where you feel like family.
The program was limited to 12 students and included Indigenous elements, such as setting desks in a circle and dedicating a day to cultural activities. “Cultural Friday” began with a smudge, followed by an activity like going to a gallery or on a canoe trip, or making drums and cedar hats.
“The smaller class meant that when I got distracted, VCC was able to bring me back in,” says Davis. “I’ve been in courses where there were 300 students; it was easy to fall through the cracks.”
Fewer students and the flexibility to deliver the program to meet student needs enabled Michele Rosko, the program’s lead instructor, to offer individual attention.
ACCESS Director of Programs Gary McDermott also admires the success of this program. “This partnership proves a course can be reformatted to Indigenous standards ensuring Indigenous Peoples succeed in the classroom and workplace,” he says.