ALOY Graduation Parade
Last Wednesday, The Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year program celebrated the graduation of 9 of their 22 original students. Commandant BGen Lawson and Elder Bernard Nelson presided over the ceremony. Out of the 9 graduates, one is following a military career as a RETP cadet along with two others who are coming back to RMC as ROTP students and one is leaving for University of Alberta, Edmonton as a UTPNCM student. For comments from the ALOY staffs, Sgt Curtis White, Sgt Robert Taillon and Capt (ret’d) Robert Thibeau, click on the videos below.
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‘The most rewarding thing I’ve ever done’
By IAN ELLIOT – Kingston Whig Standard
Kassandra O’Rourke yesterday moved one step closer to her dream of becoming a pilot.
With boots polished to a high gloss and her brass gleaming, O’Rourke led a class of nine native students into Yeo Hall at Royal Military College yesterday morning.
They were the first group of native students to finish a program intended to prepare them for life at Royal Military College and the Canadian Forces.
The 19-year-old from British Columbia, blessed with a parade- square voice and drill to match, was a graduate of the college’s new Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year. It was introduced last year as a way to expose native students to the military and ultimately get them into positions of command.
“This year has been an amazing, incredible experience for me,” she said after marching the small knot of cadets out of the hall following the ceremony.
“It pushed me, but this was probably the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done.”
Twenty-two students from across the country last year began the program, which was intended to give them a taste of military life and introduce them to the college.
Like other first-year cadets, they could leave without penalty any time if they decided it was not for them, and of the nine who remained to the end, all but two will remain with the military in some capacity.
O’Rourke is one of three who plan to return in the fall and enter the college with next year’s class of first-year cadets; four others plan to join the regular forces or the reserves.
Dustin Tays, who came to the college from a First Nation in Manitoba, plans to enlist in the regular force and train as a medical tech.
“This was hard,” he said of the prep year.
“They put a lot of stress on you here, but it’s a good stress — it gives you an opportunity to see what you are capable of.”
Navy Capt. James Jollymore, the chief of staff for the Canadian Defence Academy, reviewed the cadets along with Tyendinaga Mohawk Chief Donald Maracle. He said the program was overdue.
Most civilian universities, recognizing that natives need cultural support and academic support if they are to succeed in post-secondary education, have similar prep programs, but this was a first for Canada’s officer training school.
“This program was not set up as a means to recruit into the Canadian Forces, but as an act of nation-building,” he said.
Military officials compare the program to a similar initiative that was developed in the 1980s to admit female cadets.
“No one told us to do this; we just knew it was the right thing to do,” Jollymore said.
Natives are the fastest-growing population in Canada, and while many join the military, most do it at the non-commissioned level.
The program was set up to identify potential leaders and expose them to RMC through a customized program that culminated in a canoe trip down the Rideau Canal, during which the students were evaluated on leadership and other factors.
Sgt. Curtis White, the senior NCO of the program, noted that even the students who left the course before graduating took skills and knowledge back to their communities that they may not have gained otherwise, as would the graduates who decided that a military life was not for them.
Tays, who said he had always wanted to be a paramedic, said his experience at the school had been unforgettable.
“I can’t believe how close we all are at the end of this,” he said.
“We are going to be friends for the rest of our live