Tuesday marked the grand opening celebration for the Atoskewin Success Centre’s new location.
It was an opening six years in the making. The centre previously held its first grand opening in 2013 at their original location on 114th Street in North Battleford.
The centre itself was a partnership between Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs, the federal government and the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Economy. The concept was for it to be a one-stop shop to help Indigenous people bridge gaps in education and training, so they can be placed into jobs.
The centre soon relocated to share space with the band offices of the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs on 104th Street.
Recently BATC moved to a new location, opening the door to allow the Atoskewin Success Centre to expand its presence to the entire building.
Renovations were completed Monday. On Tuesday, the Centre held its grand opening event.
The celebrations included food and entertainment, a tour of the facility, children’s activities, and an education and training info fair inside. The centre also held an “I.D. blitz” taking applications for treaty cards, health cards, birth certificates and social insurance numbers.
Trina Albert, from Sweetgrass First Nation, is one of the directors for Employment and Training. Albert said BATC and its seven member First Nations backed the renovation project financially, with a view to “make our services better to be delivered for our people.”
Albert said the centre has come a long way to where it is now. Continuing to be important will be its employment and training aspect. Many clients come to Atoskewin Success Centre without having completed Grade 12. Others may not have driver’s licences or proper job certifications. Making sure clients get their needed certifications is a key role for the centre.
“We do the tickets, and that would be the work tickets, your first aid, your CPR – any tickets that you need to qualify to get into a job. And we don’t stop there. We make sure that once you get your tickets [and] you’re employed, we keep track of you for six months after, so that you’re getting everything. Everyone has struggles, so if they miss a step on the way going to better their lives, we’re here to help them get back on track.”
Available supports include elders and counsellors, who are there to “make sure every area is covered so they feel good about themselves when they walk out that door.” There is an IT program familiarizing people in tech support including Excel and PowerPoint.
Also popular are social work classes, which count towards a degree, and there are other educational programs as well.
There are some unique features to the expanded facility. One is the inclusion of a family centre to provide daycare services for those clients taking programming at the centre.
“The clients that we provide service to often struggle or are challenged with childcare,” said Kimberly Night, Kiwewin Family Centre coordinator. She explained clients might make it halfway through the program and then be forced to drop out due to childcare issues.
The family centre was created on the advice of elders. It provides daycare, learning and other activities for children in a traditional Indigenous setting, and is designed to help Indigenous clients be better able to stay in their classes.
Right outside is a natural-space play area, which will be used by the centre year-round for their land-based learning, including activities such as cooking. On Tuesday it was put to good use as bannock was being cooked during the noon-hour celebrations.
Also new is a spa and salon, run by Success Centre clients. The idea is for clients to use the service to feel better about themselves and boost their self-confidence.
The initial decision to move the Atoskewin Success Centre to BATC’s 104th Street location a few years ago made sense, said Night, because “we had all of this building but we didn’t utilize it all.”
The building had formerly housed the RCMP detachment in North Battleford. Even during the time that BATC had offices in the buildings, evidence of its former use as a “cop shop” was noticeable. Night said her workspace was actually the detachment’s “drunk tank” in its previous life.
It took a team effort to transform the look of the interior to become the Atoskewin Success Centre’s new quarters in the past several months. Labour for the construction was not hard to find, as the Success Centre turned to their own students with construction training.
“It’s actually our clients that built the centre,” said Night.
The centre is looking forward to settling in at its expanded quarters with enhanced services to help their clients complete a successful journey into the world of work.
“We’ve come a very long way,” said Albert. “If we can help one client leave with something, we did our job.”