Gabriel Dumont Institue

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In Conversation with Jack Shorter

Nov 6, 2019

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We recently sat down with Jack Shorter for lunch and a conversation.

 

Jack is a 60 year old great-grandfather and retired farmer. He is currently completing his high school at the Dumont Technical Institute Adult Basic Education program in Saskatoon. Jack is an affable and friendly person, and a joy to speak with about life.

 

He is among the growing number of retirees who seek to re-enter the workforce. Jack would like to earn extra income, and have something to look forward to each morning.

 

Jack attended public schools in Saskatchewan. He remembers how he was treated differently for being Métis. Despite being a good student who liked school, Jack was pushed out of school by negative experiences and the fact that there was disconnect between what he was learning at school and his life experience. So, in 1974 at age 16, he left his grade 10 classroom and did not return.

 

As he got older, Jack started thinking of returning to school to complete his grade 12 diploma. He fondly recalls how two years ago at Salvation Army in Saskatoon, he “realized how much times had changed. I had no idea how to use a computer. I got help preparing my resume and cover letter, but when I went to hand in one, they told me I had to email it. I was stuck again.” It was then that he received what he describes as “life-changing advice.” He was told that because he is Métis, he should visit Gabriel Dumont Institute where he would get financial aid and other supports to complete his studies or skills training.

 

Jack visited Gabriel Dumont Institute where spoke with an employment counsellor. He applied for admission to the Adult Basic Education program and was accepted.

 

Though excited about his decision to return to school after decades, Jack was nervous and apprehensive. “I had been out of school for 44 years. Some of the instructors were young enough to be my children. How would my classmates relate with me? Would it be the same math I learned in school? Back then there were no computers!”

 

Jack had another challenge. Because of arthritis in his fingers and knuckles, he had difficulty writing and typing on his keyboard.

 

However, his fears were allayed by kind treatment and personalized support he continues to receive at Dumont Technical Institute through disability funding. “They bought me this machine, a voice-activated laptop, which is awesome. I don’t have to write or type. I just speak and the machine types what I say.” He continued, “Dumont Technical Institute belongs to Métis people. It is ours. They treat me like family. Everyone cares. They also teach about Métis culture and history. The classes are small and everyone is very friendly. Everyone calls you by name and tells you they are glad that you came to school today, and that they want you to succeed. It is very good.”

 

But, it has not always been easy for Jack. “Many times I was ready to give up. But with the help from the younger students and my instructors, especially David Werner, I persisted. When I came to Dumont Technical Institute, I was very intimidated to sit in front of the computer. But now, I feel very comfortable doing PowerPoint presentations, making charts and graphs, and working on math and essays. I am more confident and happy.”

 

Jack successfully completed his grade 11 last spring and is looking forward to graduating with his grade 12 in May 2020. He noted, “I never knew that school would be fun, and that I’d look forward to going to school each morning. This is what I tell my grandchildren and my great granddaughter.”

 

Jack concluded our conversation by stating, “My advice to young and old alike is to make a plan and stick to it. Things will work out in the end. I am glad I did and thankful for the support I have received at Dumont Technical Institute. I am looking forward to the future.”

By James Oloo

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Gabriel Dumont Institue

GDI is a Saskatchewan-based educational, employment and cultural institute serving Métis across the province

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