Career fair offers guidance at Survival School

Becoming a firefighter runs in the family, so Shakoiatenhawitha Cross Jacobs, 24, knew he wanted to work at the Kahnawake Fire Brigade (KFB) long before coming across the fire department’s table at the Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) career fair years ago.

For the students of today who are looking for direction, however, Wednesday’s annual KSS career fair brought a host of CEGEPs, universities, community organizations, and employers under one roof.

KFB again set up a table at the event, where Cross Jacobs, now a department paramedic who is currently training to add firefighting to his duties, helped show off some of the same gear that impressed him when he was a teenager.

“At the time it was something I already knew I wanted to do. Just seeing all the gear, the equipment, all of that just made me want to do it even more,” said Cross Jacobs.

The KFB table was popular for items like a defibrillator and firefighter’s helmet, but at least a couple students seemed particularly interested, according to Cross Jacobs, who is following in the footsteps of two grandfathers and a great-grandfather by expanding into firefighting.

“When I was younger, if I wasn’t interested in something it didn’t matter, but if I was interested then I would just ask a million questions,” he said.

Students also approached booths to earn a sticker by asking a question. Those who filled up their career-fair passports with 10 stickers were entered into a draw to win prizes ranging from standard merch to Shop Kahnawake and other gift certificates.

“I don’t just want students to be wandering around twiddling their thumbs, thinking ‘why am I here?’ That was the purpose. I wanted students to engage with our booths more and engage with our guests more,” said Echo Hamelin, the transitions counsellor at KSS who organized the event, borrowing the passport idea from Tewatohnhi'saktha.

“It makes me feel really good, the energy that these kinds of events create and the teamwork that comes with it, the collaboration. It makes my heart warm and full,” said Hamelin. “It’s really tough to organize, but having everyone here with the students, I think a lot of people appreciate it.”

Jordan Diabo, tours and events coordinator at Kahnawake Tourism, used the event to promote the organization’s opportunities for summer students at the Welcome Center. Youth get the opportunity to plan events, participate in tours, and greet visitors.

“It can offer them great experience, potentially leading to a career in tourism or event planning,” said Diabo.

The KSS gym was bustling throughout the day with students collecting stickers, knickknacks, and tidbits of knowledge that might just make all the difference in the future.

“I think this is an opportunity to know what’s out there and available when high school is over, maybe ease a little stress or something,” said Ronald Guimond, 15. “It’s cool to see all the colleges and the different things they provide.”

The ninth-grader had plans to check out the fair twice, once during lunch break and once with class.

“For some people it may be overwhelming, but for me, I like it. I like having everything right here. It’s accessible to me. I don’t have to travel far out and go see all those colleges. They’re right here. It lets me know what’s out there,” said Guimond, who hopes to get involved in the automotive industry, perhaps as a mechanic.

“When they leave here, they just need more guidance in terms of exploring the world,” said Hamelin.

“That’s basically what my goal was, just to give students some guidance.”

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door