For the past two summers, JEDI has provided funding to the not-for-profit Fredericton Outdoor Summer Theatre (FrOST) program. FrOST encompasses two divisions – the Calithumpians who do theatre-in-the- park, drama camps and haunted hikes and the Fencibles who do walking tours and heritage activities.
This past summer, the JEDI funding subsidized the training and employment of two Aboriginal students, Rudi Aker and Kyle Ennis. Most student employment programs run 6-8 weeks, but with JEDI’s funding, Rudi and Kyle were able to work a full 12 weeks with FrOST.
FrOST is a 3 month program that runs every summer from June to August. It is a great summer job for young people who are interested in a creative and unique experience. This was Rudi’s third summer and Kyle’s first summer in FrOST’s Fredericton Fencibles division which provides the signature Heritage Interpretation programming in the Historic Garrison District (HGD) in partnership with the City of Fredericton.
“Heritage interpreters are people who try to help others understand the significance of various aspects of our culture including the geography and heritage,” shared Peter Pacey, Founder and Producer of FrOST. “The work is about sharing a sense of the history and culture of Fredericton, the Saint John River Valley and New Brunswick.”
The positions are advertised yearly in local schools, universities and in the media. The application process consists of a preliminary audition and interview and then there is a callback where applicants get a chance to show off their creativity and writing skills. Theatre experience isn’t mandatory but FrOST is looking for people who are a good fit; those with enthusiasm, adaptability and good people skills.
The training includes tours of the city of Fredericton and then lots of directed research and learning sessions on the history of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada and the role of the military in the HGD. In addition to the tour training, Peter said that “elders are brought in from Native communities to talk about the history of the Aboriginal people and how the area developed before and after the Europeans arrived.” Peter wants the Aboriginal students to be able to tell their own story and the story of their people. It helps them see the relevance of their culture in the big picture of the development of the community.
The job itself, consists of doing tours of downtown Fredericton, the guard houses, and doing some theatre pieces and children’s activities. All of the tour guides are given the flexibility to share information that is the most relevant to them. The key is for each tour guide to be themselves and enthusiastic about the information that they are sharing, this makes the tours more interesting for all involved. For example, while doing the tour by the river, Kyle liked to talk about the founding of Saint Mary’s and share stories about the significance of the river and how it’s Maliseet name means bountiful river.
“It’s very important that the story is told in the first person,” said Peter. “Every student is encouraged to express their people’s role in the development of Fredericton and share that. It raises their sense of pride in themselves while they are still being true to the history. This is especially true for young Aboriginal kids. It’s important for them to connect with their own history and to connect with their own sense of pride. It’s good for them to connect to their heritage and realize how their community contributed to the growth.”
“The best part of the job was meeting all kinds of different people from different places,” shared Rudi. “It was great hearing their stories and their perspective on our stories.”
“I think this job has really helped me grow into myself as a person,” continued Rudi. “When I first started I wasn’t nearly as outgoing as I am now, this job has really helped bring me out of my shell, it’s a once in a lifetime job. It’s a great place to work and meet new people and come into your own. It was a fabulous experience and I’m so grateful I got to work there not only last summer but the previous two summers as well.”
Kyle had the same feelings about the position. “The best part of the job was meeting all of the tourists who were from so many different places. People visited from all over the world,” he said. “I think it is a good program especially for younger people. The job is really good to develop confidence, be outgoing and meet new people.” Kyle said that he used to be nervous to work in customer service but now he is not nervous at all.
“It’s about accentuating what the young people can bring to the table and shows them that their contributions are significant,” said Peter. “These jobs really affect the student hires. It helps them discover what they want to do in life and lets them find themselves and the ambition they might have.”
If you are interested in applying to the FrOST program for a summer job, they start accepting applications on April 1st. Keep an eye out for advertisements at your school, university or in the local media.