STONEY NAKODA – Helping community members take the first step in getting their driver's licence, Cochrane RCMP has teamed up with Stoney Nakoda First Nation to help students prepare to take their learner's driving exam.
“We recognize that, that’s still needed out here, out in Morley just to support the community members that want to go get their licence but maybe need the little extra help or maybe need a little extra support learning the material,” said Cochrane RCMP Cst. Jennifer Brewer.
Brewer partnered with the Îyârhe Nakoda Youth Program and Mini Thni Crisis Support to bring the driver's education program to the Nation and support community members in getting their learner's licences.
They hosted four small classes to adhere to COVID-19 public health regulations, Brewer said. She added they incorporated Zoom into classes to help ensure they were accessible to anyone who was interested.
During the classes, they covered the driver's handbook “cover to cover” and conducted practice tests to help students prepare for taking their driver's education exams.
“We were able to kind of dissect that using slides and other methods and the practice exams … We could look at and absorb the information, so when they go write their exam, they’ll have that exposure to it,” Brewer said. “It’s definitely good exposure.”
She added they are encouraging students to let them know how they do on exams, so they can gauge how they are making out after the class.
“If we can stand behind them and they can get their licence, then it makes things easier for them to access everything,” Brewer said.
It was important to give students a confidence boost with the class, especially because the driver's handbook can be dry and intimidating to some students.
“When you’re not used to that type of wording and things like that it’s definitely helpful to have that exposure so you can get used to the way they word things,” Brewer said.
The driver's education program was important for Mini Thni Crisis Support, said team coordinator Gabriel Young, because it helps members build capacity and enhance their skills. It was critical to bring driver education in Stoney to meet the needs of the rural community and benefit Nation member's quality of life.
“They can have a chance to increase their tools – driving, that’s a need that’s essential especially because we live in a remote community,” Young said. “Driving is something we do almost every day.”
Îyârhe Nakoda Youth Program leader Danielle Mark added the program was designed to see driver's education as a capacity-building opportunity that would empower younger Nation members.
“We thought this would be a great opportunity for them to become more independent,” Mark said.
It was incredible seeing how engaged youth were with the program, she added, explaining they were eager to ask questions and learn more about driver education.
Young noted it was especially great to see the overall positive impact of the course in the community because students were able to come and learn a skill they will use for the rest of their lives.
“Everything was good about it,” Young said with a grin. “I can’t pinpoint a favourite thing.”
They originally planned to host one class, Mark said, but found the demand was high and they chose to create three more classes to meet the needs of the community.
“It exploded – I was very surprised to see all that blow up so quickly,” Mark said with a chuckle. The phone calls continued to come in as soon as the classes were posted.
Classes began in early November and saw about 40 people attend.
The classes faced a unique challenge, Young said, as they need to work to ensure everyone stayed safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We needed to ensure this course would be available in a safe way,” Young said.
He explained they worked hard to ensure classes were kept small, allowing for a more intimate learning experience.
The program was open to anyone eligible to take their learner's licence test in Stoney Nakoda and had both youth and adults take part.
They have received some feedback from participants and students were grateful for the support and the opportunity to build their confidence while learning an important life skill, he said.
After finding success with the first batch of classes, Young said, the plan is to continue forward with additional classes in the new year.
No dates for the next set of classes have been finalized. Check the Îyârhe Nakoda Youth Program and Mini Thni Crisis Support Facebook pages for updates. Students are asked to sign-up in advance to help adhere to COVID-19 public health protocols.
To find out more about the upcoming classes contact Young at 403-862-7789 or Mark at 403-554-0703.