The Africadian Empowerment Academy

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, I rise today on this unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Anishinaabeg Algonquin Nation to bring attention to the 10-year anniversary of The Africadian Empowerment Academy — AEA — formerly known as the East Preston Empowerment Academy. AEA is located in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.

The AEA is a non-profit education and skills development-based organization, designed to empower and equip African Nova Scotians to pursue and fulfill their dreams and aspirations. As one of four founding members with a staff of one 10 years ago, I am excited to see how AEA has grown now to a staff of 14 and an active board of directors. In these 10 short years, AEA has served about 1,500 people in its various programs.

AEA strives to aid African Nova Scotians to become full participants and recognized in the fabric of Nova Scotia’s vibrant economy. AEA inspires and helps people of African descent achieve their educational and professional development goals as a pathway to individual and collective empowerment through the skilled trades.

Their Shipbuilding Cohort, in partnership with Irving Shipbuilding and the Nova Scotia Community College, was the most successful of all the Irving cohort programs for equity‑deserving groups, including women and Indigenous people. In 2021, The Africadian Empowerment Academy released an economic and social impact study which was conducted by Deloitte. It concluded that AEA graduates contributed more than $1 million to the province’s gross domestic product over a four-year period, and more than 70% of their graduates reported an increase in income after graduating from the program.

The AEA programs provide lead-in readiness and wraparound support for students in skilled trades. They offer Youth in Trades programming, with March break camps for trades and paid summer employment with both government departments and private companies. These programs introduce young Black youth to the trades and offer them meaningful summer jobs, and they actively engage community partners.

Colleagues, it is my privilege to publicly congratulate The Africadian Empowerment Academy for their decade of critical work, bringing economic prosperity to African Nova Scotians through professional development opportunities such as these.

Asante, thank you.

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