Northern youth take extra step to prepare for college in BC

Twenty students from across the North are participating in a program that prepares them to attend college in British Columbia together in the fall.

The transitional program, for students who graduated high school and now want a post-secondary education, provides classes that may not otherwise be offered or that are designed to help them adjust to the college experience.

On passing their classes, the students will head to Camosun College in Victoria, BC, later this year.  


Lois Philipp, the NWT lead for the program, says it not only teaches academic material but alleviates some social pressures associated with post-secondary education as the students will take with them a group of friends and support system.

Chase Yakeleya (left) and Ethan Tutcho (right) study after watching a virtual lecture. Sarah Sibley/Cabin Radio

“When they have a cohort that is connected prior to getting there, it really helps the transition into the south,” Philipp told Cabin Radio.

“Getting out of the North and into post-secondary, that in itself is a success. It really allows us to redefine what success is from our perspective.”

The program is managed by Northern Compass, winner of the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize in February 2020, in collaboration with Northern Youth Abroad, Northern Loco, and Camosun College. This is its first year.

Chase Yakeleya, a student in the program, described it as “super amazing and super important.”


“We’re creating bonds here and we’re all becoming like brothers now. We’re all learning to become independent, learning how to budget, all this stuff,” Yakeleya said.

“I’m learning stuff that the teachers in my school said I couldn’t do, and now I’m proving to them here that I can do it and I’m capable.”

Getting prepared for college

Classes started on March 15 and will last for 16 weeks.

Some students are learning remotely, while nine students are in Fort Providence learning as a group for eight weeks.

Activities include virtual science labs, online lectures, and fitness classes. Subjects include English, math, exercise science, and biology.  

Eight of the nine students in Fort Providence are young men. Philipp, who said earlier programming tended to see more uptake from women, believes that means the transition program is “really meeting the needs of a group that is often overlooked.”

Some of the students in Fort Providence said they want to return to their communities after they complete school.

Yakeleya is interested in taking a program related to business and Indigenous studies. He wants to return to Tulita after college.

“I want to do something where I can go on the land and help teach,” he said.

“I want to go back to my community and support the youth, and give them something to do, and get them to be more active.”

Clockwise from top left: Will, Nathan, Ethan and Chase hope to study at Camosun College in the fall. Sarah Sibley/Cabin Radio

Will Sassie, a student from Fort Liard, said some of the courses are “really challenging, but I’m up for it.”

“This program is teaching me a lot in general,” he said. “Meeting new people, challenging yourself and being more open-minded.”

Ethan Tutcho, from Norman Wells, said he was focused on passing the program and would not “get my hopes too high” as he worried about distracting himself from his goal.

Nathan Maniapik, from Pangnirtung, Nunavut, wants to pursue civil engineering at college.

“It’s awesome to be learning extra curriculum that we’ve never had. I’ve never had biology in my school,” he said.

“Once I finish that, I want to go back to Nunavut and take care of the communities, and make sure every community has good building resources.”