Online education platform designed to help those most in need


WATERLOO AREA — A new partnership between Monica Place and Anishnabeg Outreach will provide life skills classes to young families locally, and potentially across the country.

Young new moms in Waterloo Region who want to learn how to prepare baby food, make home repairs and learn other life skills will soon be able to take online courses and receive credits towards of their high school diploma.

For the past 50 years, Monica Place has been an educational resource and support center for young pregnant or new parents. Each year, about thirty people, mainly young mothers, take the life skills courses offered by the agency. Executive director Jennifer Breaton said the program so far has been limited to in-person training only.

“It’s very papery and cumbersome. Of course, this is not how young people want to learn. We want to make things more accessible,” she said. The program is made up of 11 modules and allows students to receive full credit through the Waterloo Regional District School Board.

Anishnabeg Outreach has agreed to videotape these lessons and host them on the AONest platform, a cloud-based learning system that users can access from any device. The platform already hosts a variety of content, including training and employment supports, early years programs and self-directed healing classes.

Life skills videos can be accompanied by worksheets, virtual presentations, or other materials to facilitate learning.

CEO Stephen Jackson said the education center will help pregnant youngsters and parents at Monica Place, but also has the potential to help young families across the country. The organization hopes to partner with other agencies like Monica Place in major urban centers across Canada to give them access to the online platform.

“We need to break the cycle of social support throughout life,” Jackson said. By providing tools and resources to people in need, the goal is to position them for success in the future and avoid a life of poverty or homelessness.

“It’s a proactive solution that avoids problems downstream.” If young mothers can learn life skills and receive vocational training through the platform, it can lead to a better life for them and their child.

The online platform is also a way to bring culture back to Indigenous peoples, Jackson said. The resource has sections on sharing recipes, words of wisdom and teachings from Knowledge Keepers.

The AONest platform is not publicly available to just anyone. Only families supported by Anishnabeg Outreach have access, and soon Monica Place customers will too.

It’s different than going to YouTube and finding information and training resources there, Jackson said. The AONest platform is curated and content is created by agencies with specific people in mind. Access to online resources should be paired with support from local organizations.

After Monica Place clients start using online classes, Jackson hopes to form partnerships with other social service agencies through word of mouth. The more partnerships, the more educational programming is brought to the platform, he said.

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