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On Wednesday, March 28th, 2012, CLN was pleased to partner with eCampusAlberta to host the inaugural Forever Learning Luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton. Over 125 people from adult learning, literacy, comprehensive community institutions (colleges), government and community agencies came together to celebrate International Adult Learners’ Week. We were joined by His Honour, Colonel (retired) the Honourable Donald S. Ethell, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta and Her Honour Linda Ethell, as well as Edmonton City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi, Senator Thelma Chalifoux (retired) and Dr. Brian Staples, Alberta’s first Provincial Adult Education Coordinator. It was also our great honour to welcome Ms. Manitok Thompson (pictured left) as the afternoon’s Keynote speaker. Of course we were joined by many other VIPs – the people who dedicate so much time, talent and effort to advancing lifelong learning in our province through their work, volunteerism and sharing their personal stories of their own learning journeys.

CBC Edmonton’s Adrienne Lamb hosted the event, with her trademark charm and gentle humour. She welcomed the guests by saying how “thrilled” she was to be in a “room full of lifelong learners and people who promote and foster just that.”

The Honourable Colonel (retired) Donald Ethell (right) took the stage after a great meal to offer his introductory remarks, emphasizing that no one among us can afford to stop learning. He commended the work of Community Learning Network and partners like eCampusAlberta when he said that, thanks to our work, “the people across Alberta are learning what they need to build stronger and better lives; and that in turn makes our communities and our province much more vibrant places to be.”

Enayat Aminzadah, Executive Director of Community Learning Network then addressed the Luncheon attendees, graciously thanking all the partners and supporters who helped make this event possible. As Enayat said, “It is the learners in our communities who will benefit from the partnerships we build and the support we give each other.” The Forever Learning luncheon would not have been possible without the generous support of NorQuest College and CBC Edmonton, and our community partners: Volunteer Alberta, Literacy Alberta, the Centre for Family Literacy, Campus Alberta Central, the Edmonton Community Adult Learning Association (ECALA) and iCCAN.

Enayat also highlighted the importance of 2012, marking 40 years of Further Education Councils in Alberta, now known as Community Adult Learning Councils, and 25 years since the incorporation of the Company of Coordinators, now Community Learning Network.

On behalf of His Worship Stephen Mandel, Mayor of the City of Edmonton, Councillor Amarjeet Sohi acknowledged the importance and accomplishments of CLN and all the positive contributions of community-based learning in Alberta. Councillor Sohi presented Community Learning Network with an official proclamation of International Adult Learners’ Week in Edmonton, Alberta’s Capital City (pictured left). To see the proclamation and read the full text, click here.

The Executive Director of eCampusAlberta, Tricia Donovan, took the stage to talk about the importance of community- based learning as well. eCampusAlberta shares many of the same goals and works in collaboration with colleges, Community Access Points (CAP sites) and now with the members of Community Learning Network to, as Tricia puts it, “support people where they are and as they need it.”

After an eloquent introduction by Maroro Zinyemba, Instructor at NorQuest College, we were treated to a wonderful keynote address by Ms. Manitok Thompson, first female member of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly – herself a dedicated lifelong learner. Ms. Thompson’s presentation was titled “Celebrating Adult Learning and Keeping Culture Alive”. Manitok invited us on an expedition with her, through her personal learning journey, starting in a Coral Harbour, Northwest Territories. After a brief technical setback with the presentation, Manitok turned it in to a learning moment, by taking the opportunity to explain the Inuit “technology” of her traditional outfit.

Manitok then went on to share her experiences, from her first day of school, without a word of English, through to her career as a Minister in the Governments of both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Everyone was captivated by her story of struggles and triumphs, told with an inspiring humility. She spoke of her work as a teacher and as the Minister responsible for Arctic College, and how important the link between culture and continuous learning is to her people. (The full video of Manitok Thompson’s keynote address will be available on CLN Online in coming weeks.)

After a great afternoon, the event closed with Tricia Donovan of eCampusAlberta announcing the release of a great new resource for community learning coordinators and facilitators, developed in partnership with Community Learning Network: The Community e-Toolkit. The toolkit covers ten key areas including adult upgrading, literacy and essential skills, careers and training programs and supporting adult learners. The toolkit is available to anyone working to support and promote learning in our communities at www.community.ecampusalberta.ca .

The Forever Learning Luncheon was a wonderful event, and we look forward to celebrating with you again in Calgary in 2013!

Please contact news@communitylearning.info  if your council has a story you would like to share.