The M Program
Participants of the ‘M’ Program discover their potential
A group of young moms are sitting around a dinner table in the staff room at Winnipeg Technical College, bites of stir-fry in between tending to their toddlers.
With their kids eating in portable high chairs, sleeping in strollers or balancing on their laps, the conversation casually shifts from teething tales to recipes for yams and Mother’s Day plans.
Fast forward one hour and the girls – some of whom became parents before they could even get a driver’s license – are focused on the task at hand: build a PowerPoint presentation in approximately 10 minutes and show it to the class. They don’t even flinch at the quick turnaround.
As participants in The ‘M’ Project, new challenges have become old hat. They’ve spent two evenings every week for the last four months getting hands-on experience in a dozen or so career fields at post-secondary education institutions in Winnipeg. Tonight, they’re tackling Business Administration while Career Trek child care workers tend to their kids down the hall.
Tiffany Greyeyes, 16-year-old mom to two-year-old Kingsley, says Career Trek has given her options she wouldn’t have otherwise considered. She hasn’t yet graduated from high school but already she knows what it’s like to be a lawyer, teacher and chemist. “Before (Career Trek), I wanted to be a daycare worker but now I’m looking at Engineering,” she says. “I’m really good at math so I got it right away.”
Project Manager Judy Schau says building confidence is a big part of this unique career exploration program and she’s witnessed the progress with her own eyes. “A lot of them were very fragile. Now they’re standing up for themselves. They’re not so full of fear,” says Judy, who notes the project also improves social skills and provides a support network.
The ultimate goal is to get the girls excited about pursuing a university or college education. So far this year, three of the project’s participants have applied for The University of Winnipeg.
“It’s opening the door,” says Judy, who became teary-eyed when one of the girls presented her with a medicine wheel she made in her Native Studies class. “If they’re not exposed to different careers and options, they’re not going to know what’s out there.”
The group has a female and a male leader, to provide the girls with positive role models of both sexes.
The girls have also met strong females in the form of guest speakers: a chef, a college dean, a marketing coordinator, and a bricklayer. Tonight, a woman from a non-profit employment development agency is teaching them about money management and how to start saving now for their children’s education.
Despite the odds stacked against them, the girls make it to their evening Career Trek classes after putting in a full day at their respective high schools in central Winnipeg.
The career fields and skills they explore through Career Trek are diverse. This year, these activities included: operating on cow eyes, creating a movie storyboard, doing improvisational comedy, making ice cream from scratch, grading eggs, taking each other’s blood pressure, performing yoga and pilates, and constructing beams from gravel and water.
For 20-year-old mother of two Shantelle Menson, this trek helped confirm she wants to be an elementary school teacher. She titled her PowerPoint presentation “How I Found the Career I Want.” Shantelle reveals to the class that she chose teaching because of the impact she could have on students. She says, “It is possible you can change them for the rest of their lives.
The gowned graduates of The ‘M’ Project might have a baby attached to their hip when receiving their diplomas, forever balancing their children and their studies. During a recent ceremony, the girls watched an emotional slideshow of their time together which left them “screaming with laughter” and wiping away happy tears, says Career Trek’s Curriculum Developer Elena Anciro.
“They’re dealing with so many things and yet they came twice a week – even taking the bus on a day when it was – 38C. They wrapped up their kids and they came. It’s not just the girls’ accomplishment but also the kids’. That’s the great thing. We’re affecting two generations.”
The ‘M’ Program is funded by: