Free The Children in partnership with the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, goes inside the classroom to shine a spotlight on Aboriginal People in Canada

TORONTO, Feb. 13, 2012 /CNW/ - The Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI) together with international children's charity and educational partner, Free The Children, is launching its second annual campaign: "Local Spotlight: Aboriginal Education." Part of a larger year-round program, this campaign educates students about Aboriginal culture, traditions and history, as well as engages them in meaningful dialogue on the topic of Aboriginal issues in Canada.

Aboriginal People have the fastest growing demographic in this country, but the people face many issues. For example, the school dropout rate in Canada averages about 9.5 percent, but is about 60 percent for First nations People living on reserves.

Free The Children and MAEI have teamed up to make Aboriginal issue a long-term priority and provide a platform for today's youth to better understand the challenges faced by Aboriginal People, thereby helping to break down barriers.

"MAEI's goal is to make sure every Aboriginal student in Canada goes to a school where they can get a decent education," said the Right Honourable Paul Martin. "Working with Free The Children on this program is an important step in the direction of ensuring that future generations of Canadians of aboriginal origin are given the same opportunities as all other Canadians."

Local Spotlight: Aboriginal Education, taking place from February 13 - 24, 2012, is a two week curriculum program designed for educators to engage their students in Aboriginal history, culture and tradition. Lesson plans, daily facts, and action guides, created for both elementary and secondary students explore the challenges and opportunities for Aboriginal People in this country. Students are then called to take action to educate their family and friends by sharing what they learn through this tailored program.

"MAEI's strong belief in education, coupled with its dedication and commitment towards bringing equality to Canada's Aboriginal community is inspirational to all of us at Free The Children," said Craig Kielburger, Co-founder, Free The Children. "We are honoured to be partnering with MAEI on this initiative, working closely to educate today's youth on the issues faced by their Aboriginal peers and help them take action in support of building a stronger Canada."

The Local Spotlight is just one part of a year-round initiative to support and raise awareness of the Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

Speakers at Free The Children's We Day events, attended by more than 60,000 youth and educators Canada-wide, educate youth on some of the challenges faced by their Aboriginal peers, empowering them to take action. Past speakers include aboriginal activist Waneek Horn-Miller; Sharon Conway, General Manager at Louis Riel Institute; Chief M. Bryan LaForme; Shawn Atleo; Ghislain Picard; Justice Sinclaire; and the former Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Dennis White Bird.

Curriculum, campaign resources, video and outreach presentations are also available to teachers, to educate youth year-round and continue their conversations.

In 2011, 357 groups signed up for Local Spotlight; 9,000 students were directly involved, and 178,500 others were indirectly involved through peer-to-peer sharing of daily facts.

For more information about the Local Spotlight: Aboriginal Education program, please visit www.freethechildren.com/aboriginaleducation

For more information about the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative, please visit www.maei-ieam.ca

About the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative

The Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative (MAEI) is a charitable organization that supports education for Aboriginal students across Canada. MAEI's guiding vision is to empower Aboriginal students with the knowledge and confidence they need to complete secondary school and go on to post-secondary studies. MAEI has initiated various educational projects designed to provide Aboriginal Canadians with the opportunities they need to succeed. MAEI brings together Aboriginal organizations, accounting professionals, the business community, post-secondary institutions, First Nation schools and provincially-funded school boards to implement programs to support Aboriginal students.

About Free The Children

Free The Children is the world's largest network of children helping children through education, with more than one million youth involved in our innovative education and development programs in 45 countries. Founded in 1995 by international child rights activist Craig Kielburger, we are a charity and educational partner that believes in a world where all young people are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change. Our domestic programs educate, engage and empower hundreds of thousands of youth in North America, the UK and around the world. Our international projects have brought over 650 schools and school rooms to youth and provided clean water, health care and sanitation to one million people around the world.

Free The Children has a proven track record of success. The organization has received the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child (also known as the Children's Nobel Prize), the Human Rights Award from the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, and has formed successful partnerships with leading school boards and Oprah's Angel Network. For additional information, please visit www.freethechildren.com

SOURCE Free the Children

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Free The Children
Stephanie Lanari
(416) 925-5894 ext. 827
Stephanie@freethechildren.com

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