Actua’s Board Meeting in Iqaluit – Guest Blog from Susan Holt

November 21, 2012

As a board member of Actua, I’ve learned a lot over the years about our organization’s work in the northern regions of Canada.  Having never been to this part of the country, I could only imagine what was involved as I heard about Actua’s growing outreach programs and partnerships that stretch from the Yukon to the northern tips of Baffin Island and across Newfoundland and Labrador. At Actua, our members, instructors, funders and campers know that the best ways to learn something new is to experience it for yourself, hands-on. Last month, I had the opportunity to do just that when our board gathered in Iqaluit for a meeting.

Appropriately, my first lesson came from Nunavut Arctic College. The school’s President, Michael Shouldice, along with its Director of Health and Wellness Programs, Judith Paradis-Pastori, shared the exciting news that enrollment in the college’s nursing and health programs has gone up and that completion rates were increasing as well.  It was gratifying to hear these two committed professionals connect Actua’s outreach programs on health careers to greater levels of interest and success in their students. Michael and Judith reinforced the importance of Actua’s long-term commitment. For them and our young participants, knowing that programs would be offered in their communities each year make science and science related careers more accessible.

My next lesson came from Peter Ma, Deputy Minister of the Nunavut Department of Health and Social Services. He talked about the value of engaging local Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS) students as instructors and inviting Elders as mentors in Actua camps.  Peter recognized the effort Actua’s staff is making to partner with many community organizations and leaders, and the importance of these partnerships for both the reception and success of the programs.

Michael, Judith, and Peter all spoke about the value of Actua’s presence in each community. It was clear from their talks that our hands-on and community-based approach to outreach far exceeds any online or independent models of learning. After experiencing the beauty of Iqaluit, the hospitality of its people, and receiving the wisdom of our guest speakers, I can fully endorse the value of face-to-face experiences to drive learning home. Thanks to our board meeting, my understanding of Actua’s impact in the North extends far beyond the facts and figures presented at each board meeting to include the faces of our partners – which are now imprinted on my memory and on my heart.

While the North presents many logistical challenges for the delivery of education outreach programs, Actua’s commitment, in addition to its exceptional relationships with community partners, has ensured that Northern youth are connected to the many amazing, science-based career opportunities that exist for them. During my trip I had the opportunity to witness these successful results, which I know will only continue.