A program aimed at helping members of the black community continue their education and find a job is changing the lives of its participants, says the school’s president.
The East Preston Empowerment Academy (EPEA) began in 2014 at East Preston Baptist Church in Nova Scotia as a way to empower and equip members of its community with the necessary skills, tools, and confidence.
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An initial adult basic learning program was soon followed with the implementation of a GED program, and now the academy offers support to help participants earn their Red Seal certification for qualified commercial industries, according to Wanda Thomas Bernard, president of EPEA.
“The main objective is in the name. The main goal is the empowerment of students of African descent and others who have experienced some kind of marginalization from mainstream education, ”he said from his daughter’s home in Whitby, Ontario, where he worked virtually Monday.
Deloitte Canada conducted a new study on how EPEA brings significant economic and socioeconomic benefits to Nova Scotia.
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According to Deloitte, “EPEA’s cumulative economic contribution from 2016 to 2020 was $ 1.02 million to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), $ 783,000 in labor income, and the creation of 14 sustained full-time jobs.”
“The study also found that the EPEA generated a number of socioeconomic benefits, including removing barriers to education, strengthening labor market integration, and supporting better employment opportunities.”
The study said that the programs offered by EPEA have long-term beneficial impacts on the lives of the participants.
Howard Benjamin participated in the program and now works as an electrician for Red Seal.
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“I mean the people who were there as volunteers, I can’t say enough about that. They could have been at home with their families and are helping. So if that doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will, ”Benjamin said.
He now has an apprentice working with him, who is now also involved with EPEA.
“He also wants to help and give back to the community when he’s done,” Benjamin said of his apprentice.
The programs offered are available to anyone, but Bernard said they primarily want to help people from marginalized groups and women.
“Marginalized groups in Canada face long-standing social and economic disparities, including wage gaps, lower labor participation rates, and higher unemployment and underemployment. Canada’s black population continues to be one of the most disadvantaged, ”Bernard is quoted in a press release.
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“This study confirms what we have long believed – that the EPEA is creating a lasting positive influence on students, local partners and the wider community. With the support of our sponsors, we can continue to help enrich the lives of our students and those around them for decades to come. “
Bernard also said that seeing programs go virtual through the COVID-19 pandemic proved beneficial in many ways.
“We can run programs throughout the province,” he said in an interview. “I certainly hope that people across the province see this as an opportunity for them as a second chance to learn.”
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