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A new program being called the first of its kind in Canada is designed to provide a focused path towards a career in teaching for Indigenous high school students in the Winnipeg School Division.

Grade 12 student Aleahyah Acoby-Roulette is one of the students accepted into the program's inaugural run.

She says she jumped at the opportunity.

"I'd been questioning what I wanted to do. I was all over the place and I wasn't really sure, and I started volunteering with kids, and that's when I was like... I love this. I want to be a teacher," says Acoby-Roulette.

The program is to have 30 participating students in 2019 and 30 in 2020. Participants will earn an educational assistant diploma while still working towards high school graduation, then after grad will work as an EA part-time for the WSD while taking Bachelor of Arts and Education courses at the University of Winnipeg full-time. The program includes classroom internships, as well as cultural, familial, mentorship, employment, and financial supports.

Project manager Shane Bostrom says the program's goal is to bring in more Indigenous teachers, so the teachers reflect the student body.

"I didn't really have that representation in media or in schools, like a lot of Indigenous leaders or like a lot of Indigenous teachers and stuff like that... but just to know that this program is directed towards us really means a lot because we were held down for so long," says grade 11 student Ayla Laforte, who is also participating in the program.

Laforte says she was bullied when she was younger, but a teacher helped her gain confidence and taught her to be herself and stand up for herself.

"That's what really inspired me," says Laforte. "She just showed me that I don't need to be scared."

Pauline Clarke, chief superintendent and CEO of WSD, says in a release qualifying students for Build From Within must have excellent attendance, school participation, leadership, and community involvement.

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