Going There Over the Years, I Have Actually Learned to be More Outspoken and be More Out There
Kyler Harper is a recent graduate from Children of the Earth High School, a direct neighbour to SEED Winnipeg. Since 2014, the two organizations have worked together on the abOriginal Student Cooperative Project and Omazinibii’gig Artist Collective. These two programs aim to equip students with marketable art and entrepreneurial skills while they are still in high school.
Kyler’s biggest takeaway was “[learning] about business skills, about selling [products], and selling yourself”. He explains that “going there over the years, I have actually learned to be more outspoken and be more out there.” The experience of selling his personal art, and art made by his fellow students, is a great confidence boost. The ongoing lessons which teach valuable employment skills, combined with traditional Indigenous knowledge, provide a strong reason to keep coming back.
According to Kyler, the program has around 16 students from year to year. The students work in collaboration with the collective to produce their artworks. The business strategy is informed by the seven Cooperative Principles, which are then taught to the students, connecting their hands-on experience to business theory.
it will teach you all the skills you need from now to forever
Although drawn more predominantly to the business side of the program, Kyler has a strong creative bent. He has a passion for video projects, and works with Video Pool and Winnipeg Film Group. Completing work with Video Pool through the Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program, he has continued to work with them for six years and got involved with such programs as their youth summer camps. He dreams of one day growing a YouTube video production business, a dream he has already begun to implement into practice by purchasing and learning to use game recording hardware.
Looking back on his time with the co-op, he muses “I was one of the original members in the end. I felt like I knew the whole history since I was there the entire time.” Watching the program grow, while he did the same, has made Kyler invested and keen to give back. He intends to pay the experience forward through mentorship, and hopes to return to the co-op to engage with new students.
To future students considering joining he says: “Do it. Because I’ve been with the co-op ever since grade nine to now, and it will teach you all the skills you need from now to forever.”