Topic: Education

Indigenous Ingenuity wins a Major Award from the Canadian Association of Science Centres

Montreal – On Friday, May 10, in Halifax, the Canadian Association of Science Centres held their annual CASCADE Awards Gala. The Montréal Science Centre was awarded Best Exhibition or Show – Large Institution for Indigenous Ingenuity.

A success in more ways than one

The Indigenous Ingenuity exhibition is an interactive quest exploring innovations created by Indigenous Peoples across Canada. Launched in 2017, during the celebration of Montreal’s 375th anniversary and Canada’s 150th, the exhibition was a tremendous box office success – so much so that it was remounted in 2018-19 after touring to British Columbia. In total, it enabled more than 250,000 visitors to discover the ingenuity of our First Peoples. “One of our goals was to foster a sense of pride in our Indigenous visitors and to build bridges between cultures. We now can claim: mission accomplished!” said Cybèle Robichaud, Director of Programming at the Montréal Science Centre.

The fruit of a rigorous collaborative process

The success of Indigenous Ingenuity can be attributed in great part to a collaborative process with members of Indigenous Nations  who were involved in every stage of the development of the exhibition. In addition, representative Indigenous people were featured at the heart of the interactive quest: Elisabeth Kaine, Jacques Kurtness, Monique Manatch and Marie-Josée Parent, to name a few.

Indigenous Ingenuity was realized with the financial support of several organizations, including the Science Centre Foundation, Canada Lands Company, the Government of Quebec, the Society for the Celebrations of Montréal’s 375th, and Canada 150.

About the Montréal Science Centre

The Montréal Science Centre is a complex dedicated to science and technology, with more than 700,000 visitors annually. It is characterized by its accessible, interactive approach and its showcasing of local innovation and know-how. Its partners are Volvo, TELUS, La Presse+, Rhythm 105.7, 92.5 The Beat, 96.9 CKOI and 98.5.

The Art of the Weld

When you think of art forms, welding is not a medium that comes to mind. The work of Ralph Courtorielle creates a compelling argument for its inclusion. A journeyman welder, Ralph completed his welding training at Northern Lakes College and is currently teaching Pre-Employment Welding at the College.

Ralph had been working in the trades for over ten years, doing the work but not getting the wage he would as a journeyman welder, compelling him to enrol in the First Period of Welder Apprenticeship at Northern Lakes College. Welders work in diverse fields including oil, gas, or mills, and there are many opportunities to be self-employed. Though now a journeyman welder with a Red Seal designation, a national certification that allows him to weld throughout Canada, Ralph is a perpetual student and continues to learn. “Every year there is something new or more efficient in the field of welding, and I find this interesting,” he observes.

This love of learning has translated into a passion for teaching. Ralph takes great pleasure in passing on what he has learned. He considers himself a mentor, not only teaching the technical aspects of welding that lead to employment, but also the artistic aspects of the trade.

“I think the reason that I am connecting so well with the pre-employment students is that I am a product of pre-employment training myself. When I first picked up the welder, it was as though I was meant to do it. I want to show students that, though welding can be taxing on your body and physically demanding, there is a lot of room for the creative. It is not all hard work; there is fun involved.” Ralph enjoys turning a flat sheet of metal into something useful or beautiful.

For those, such as Ralph, with an artistic gift, welding can also be a creative outlet. When he and his family were unable to find a headstone they liked for his mother’s grave, Ralph donned his welding mask and gloves. He lovingly created a custom headstone, incorporating meaningful aspects of Indigenous culture and spiritual beliefs, to honour his mother’s life.

Originally from Grouard and now living in High Prairie, Ralph is married and the father of three sons. He enjoys playing baseball and spending time with family. Over the last few years, he has played in baseball tournaments all over Alberta and has gone to national championships as far away as Montréal.

Ralph reminisces about his time studying at NLC and the support he received from his instructors. “Passing the red seal journeyman exam was harder than anticipated. The College instructors provided us with excellent exam preparation and review in class. Instructor Chris Montgomery-Hewett was very thorough and drove home the details like the safety aspects and the math that is involved in welding. Jeff VanWyck and Jody Rees both helped me along with welds for my third year exams, in particular stick welding.”

With his artistic approach to welding, don’t be surprised if you see his work featured in an exhibition at some point. Until then, he will continue to pass on his passion for the trade to up-and-coming welders.

Bringing Trades to the People

Woodworking
Photos by Kassandre Jolin at Canadore College

Trades programs are coming to Indigenous people in unique ways, from unions and workers associations, to mobile schools and government outreach.

Alternative education to postsecondary institutions can be vital to gaining employment. According to Statistics Canada, Aboriginal people who completed postsecondary education had an employment rate of over 75%, but those with less than high school were at a rate of just over 40%.

The Indigenous population is the fastest growing in Canada – and that translates into more need of representation in the workforce. Over the next decade, of those aged 25-64, the Indigenous labour force will grow four times more than those who aren’t Indigenous.

Skilled trades and apprenticeships are becoming more tailored to Indigenous communities. Some outreach programs are literally coming to their doorsteps.

The Nicola Valley Institute of Technology has two campuses in Merritt and Vancouver, but it offers a third option for learning. Their Bridging to Trades program brings two 53’ mobile trailers around the province for a 12-week, pre-foundational training in one of four trades.

The idea is to introduce skills in electrical work, plumbing/pipefitting, machining, and welding before a student decides if they want to continue on that path and go to a trade school.

Dr. John Chenoweth, Associate Vice-President, says the program has been going strong for 10 years. They’ve visited around 45 to 50 communities around the province and complete 60 hours in each trade, plus 60 hours of employment readiness.

“The biggest things we want to achieve out of this, is a lot of these students probably haven’t graduated from high school,” he says. “They probably don’t have a thought in their mind that they have the ability to do those things.”

Chenoweth says one of the neat things about the program is that some of their instructors also haven’t finished high school, but they have 30 to 40 years in successful careers as tradespeople.

He says even the students who don’t end up going into the trades still come out of the program with skills and a confidence they didn’t have before.

“One of the most positive things we see is students say, yeah, I’ve learned that I don’t want to be a tradesperson, but I didn’t realize I was such a good student at math. Maybe I want to go into business, or get my grade 12 and become a teacher,” he says. “It’s almost like an awakening program for students who feel like, I can do anything. That’s what that program does, ultimately.”

Working on a shed
Photos by Kassandre Jolin at Canadore College

WOMEN ENTER THE WORKFORCE

In 2016, Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario announced its Aboriginal Women in the Trades program. Women will participate for 12 weeks and learn on of four trades: electrical, plumbing, construction, or carpentry.

The program is unique: tuition is free. The Ontario Poverty Reduction Fund partnered with community members so women receive training, materials, and bus passes to remove any barriers to participating.

The certificate program has a cultural foundation, using holistic approaches to learning and academic support.

Judy Manitowabi, Manager of the First Peoples’ Centre at Canadore, said that increasing these women’s capacity for skilled labour lays a positive foundation for growth in Indigenous communities

“This is intended to be an introduction to help women find the path best suited to them,” she said in a school statement. “Upon completion, they will have basic skills to rely upon, but they will also be qualified to further their education in the skilled trades at the postsecondary or apprenticeship level.”

Photos by John Chenoweth at NVIT

FEDERAL PROGRAMS LEND A HAND

The Government of Canada has also invested in making trades programs more accessible to Indigenous people. Last month, the government announced funding for Indigenous apprenticeships in New Brunswick. More than one million dollars will be provided to MAP Strategic Workforce Services (MAPSWS) for its First in Trades Program.

MAPSWS will open up 18 to 20 Indigenous apprenticeships positions within 14 unions of the New Brunswick Building Trades Unions.

In Alberta, the Flexibility and Innovation in Apprenticeship Technical Training (FIATT) program funded a welding program in partnership with Red Deer College and the Montana First Nation. Starting in 2018, it will teach 50 Indigenous apprentices from rural communities to become certified welders.

Rhonda Stangeland, Project Coordinator of FIATT at Red Deer College, said the partnership has allowed students to explore new career pathways.

“The project combined the use of a redesigned curriculum delivery model and learning technologies to prepare 50 Aboriginal learners for a career in welding,” she said in a press statement. “Now many of them have completed their technical training and are on their way to finding jobs in their chosen trades.”

Photos by John Chenoweth at NVIT

UBC Pre-med Workshops Taking Applicants

Staff/Faculty Members with Indigenous MD Graduates, Class of 2018

One eight-word phrase that no person likes hearing is, “You should really see a doctor about that.” But when we do hear it, we’re thankful there are medical professionals to help us. Young Indigenous people interested in becoming a doctor should mark their calendar for July 24-26. This is when the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC), will hold its 16th Annual Indigenous MD Pre-Admissions Workshop.

One eight-word phrase that no person likes hearing is, “You should really see a doctor about that.” But when we do hear it, we’re thankful there are medical professionals to help us. Young Indigenous people interested in becoming a doctor should mark their calendar for July 24-26. This is when the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC), will hold its 16th Annual Indigenous MD Pre-Admissions Workshop.

James Andrew is the UBC MD undergraduate admissions coordinator. He spoke with First Nations Drum about how the workshop evolved the last 16 years. “When we first started out, we delivered our pre-admissions workshop only at the UBC campus in Vancouver. We now deliver the workshop at each of our program sites every other year,” said Andrew. “For example, last summer’s workshop was held at our Island Medical Program site in Victoria. Next year’s workshop will be at the Southern Medical Program in Kelowna.”

Since the workshop began, Andrew said they are noticing that many med students who attended as pre-med students are participating as chaperons and role models for workshop participants. On workshop focus points, Andrew said, “Students get a preview of the medical school curriculum and visit the multi-purpose lab like medical school students. They also try to help solve a case in a case-based learning session like the real medical students experience.”

First Nations Drum asked Andrew if there’s been a high level of interest by high school students and if these students followed-up and continued on their path to working in the medical field? “Yes, definitely. When we first started our workshop in 2004, we were only targeting the Indigenous post-secondary students. As time went on, we noticed several high school students showing interest in attending,” said Andrew. “In 2010, we decided to open up four spots for high school students completing Grades 11 and 12.”

The workshop takes place at the Vancouver Fraser Medical Program at the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey Campus, Vancouver BC. The purpose of the workshop is to provide Indigenous students with the necessary tools to be successful in their application process into and then completing the undergraduate MD program. Workshop presentations will be given by Indigenous and non-Indigenous physicians, medical students, residents, university staff, and faculty members.

Indigenous Students completing Grades 11 and 12 or attending college or university in BC are encouraged to register. There is no cost to attend, and accommodations and some meals will be provided. Travel to and from the workshop is the student’s responsibility.

Quotes from previous workshop participants:

“I enjoyed myself at UNBC; everyone involved in putting the pre-med workshop did an excellent job. See you in three years.”

“I am going to be a doctor!” – One of the program’s first graduating students from 2008 who is now a family physician in Northern Alberta.

“This was a life changing experience for me. You all helped me to feel proud, hopeful, and most importantly, wanted by the program and UBC. The respect and love I experienced from everyone was truly moving. I hope to do you all proud and bring honour to my family and the Métis Nation. Thank you.” – Class of 2009 student who is now an ear-nose-throat specialist.

Participants will meet current Indigenous medical students and practicing Indigenous physicians.

Program space is limited. Apply ASAP. Registration deadline is Friday June 21.

Northern Lakes College Collaboration Results in Creation of the Atoske Community Educational Health Lab

In October 2018, the Atoske Action Group (AAG) and Northern Lakes College (NLC) celebrated the grand opening of the Atoske Community Educational Health Lab located at the Northern Lakes College campus in Wabasca. This was made possible when AAG received a contribution of $450,000 from the Government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification Canada to train community members who want to pursue health careers. AAG dedicates its work to increasing the skills, abilities, and size of the local work forces within its communities, which include Bigstone Cree Nation, Chipewyan Lake, the MD of Opportunity, Peerless Trout First Nation, Sandy Lake, and Wabasca-Desmarais. “Atoske” is the Cree word meaning, “to work”.

In 2015, The Bigstone Health Commission reached out to the AAG to assist in promoting health careers to community members. Roundtable meetings between AAG, Alberta Works, Bigstone Education Authority, and NLC resulted in the development of a plan that supports community members to pursue Health Care Aide training.  

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada comments, “Access to local community training programs creates new opportunities for life. Through effective partnerships with Indigenous Peoples, the Government of Canada is helping to remove barriers to success by ensuring local citizens are able to obtain the skills they require to fully participate in the economy and strengthen their communities.”

Art Bigstone, Chair of AAG comments, “A crucial aspect of the Atoske Action Group vision is to provide meaningful and accessible training through key partnerships. The Atoske Community Educational Health Lab and its associated programming are only possible because of the partnership between the Atoske Action Group, Bigstone Cree Nation, the M.D. of Opportunity, the Western Diversification Program, and Northern Lakes College.”

“Educating local residents in the health professions will be a real asset to the MD of Opportunity when we open our seniors’ health facility in the fall of 2019,” enthuses Reeve Marcel Auger, MD of Opportunity No. 17.

NLC President and CEO Ann Everatt says, “The College’s ongoing commitment to access and quality results in the reduction of educational barriers faced by northcentral Albertan’s. The Atoske Community Educational Health Lab ensures that community members will have access to the lab experiences required for the Health Care Aide program right here in the community. As a part of the larger initiative to increase capacity for Health Care Aides in the community, the creation of the customized Health Preparation Program ensures that local students receive the educational preparation required to enter into the Health Care Aide program.”

The Complicated History of Hereditary Chiefs and Elected Councils

Douglas Sanderson | University of Toronto Faculty of Law

Douglas Sanderson | University of Toronto Faculty of Law

The recent internal struggles between the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs and elected council has many wondering: what powers rest with whom?

The Wet’suwet’en nation is made up of five clans, and within those, 13 houses. The five hereditary chiefs representing the clans are all opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline running through their territory, while the elected council gave their go-ahead.

Elected chiefs and council generally hold authority over reserve lands and their infrastructure. Traditional chiefs oversee the territories and hold ceremonial and historical importance to First Nations.

Electoral systems are a result of the section 74 of the Indian Act, imposed upon First Nations by Canada. It was designed to eradicate the hereditary system and create something more recognizable for the western government.

Gina Starblanket, who is Cree and Saulteaux and a member of the Star Blanket Cree Nation in Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan, is an assistant professor in Indigenous Politics at the University of Calgary.  

She says that hereditary chiefs hold a symbolic role as well as a practical one. She acknowledges that it becomes particularly complicated when the question arises of who represents the nation’s voice in external relations, as in the Wet’suwet’en case.

“Hereditary chiefs are often recognized as traditional knowledge keepers, and in some contexts are recognized as having greater authority and rights relative to things like traditional territory or cultural knowledge and tradition,” she says. “But again, this varies from community to community and is also contested within communities.”

When it comes to where the authority lies, the answer is complex. The pipeline has just magnified the continual question of who controls what.

In a media release from the Wet’sewet’en, Chief Na’moks emphasized their rights to protection of their lands.

“The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have maintained their use and occupancy of their lands and hereditary governance system for thousands of years. Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs are the Title Holders and maintain authority and jurisdiction to make decisions on unceded lands,” it said.

Chief Kloum Kuhn said the hereditary chiefs will never support the Coastal GasLink project.

“Under ‘Anuc niwh’it’en, Wet’suwet’en rule of law, all five clans of the Wet’suwet’en have unanimously opposed all pipeline proposals and given no authority to Coastal Gaslink/TransCanada to do work on Wet’suwet’en lands,” he said.

BRINGING THEM TOGETHER

Douglas Sanderson (Amo Binashii), a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, is a professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto.

He says the answer is more an amalgamation of the hereditary and the elected systems, especially when it comes to working with those outside the community.

“I think what we need to do is find a way to bring these two things together, so that you just have a decision making body,” Sanderson says. “The problem is created because outsiders don’t understand our communities. They’ve never been there, they don’t know how to operate.”

He says it’s integral that companies like the Coastal GasLink pipeline know the communities they’re working with, and that the confrontation should have been obvious if they had met with the Wet’suwet’en.

“They obviously didn’t spend any time there,” Sanderson says. “So they shouldn’t be surprised that this is unraveling in the way that it is.”

AN ASSIMILATORY PROCESS

The proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline will run through 20 First Nations’ territories and the company received approval from all of them, although they sought assent only from elected officials. Some hereditary leaders also gave the thumbs up, but ultimately the go-ahead came from signed agreements with elected officials.

The reactions were mixed, but public opinion seemed to strongly sway toward supporting the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. Protests and rallies were held across Canada. Celebrities and musicians across North America voiced their support. Hereditary chiefs and elected council members from other bands wrote letters of encouragement.

Starblanket says this example of the clash between elected and hereditary leadership illustrates the problematic nature of electoral process.

“In many instances where those electoral systems were imposed, that was in an assimilatory process that was intended to undermine traditional leadership,” she says. “It also allowed for the imposition of patriarchal processes because it denied women’s jurisdiction and participation in selecting leaders.”

She emphasizes that she is from the prairie communities and doesn’t want to speak on behalf of the coastal communities.

“These electoral processes were imposed on all of us,” Starblanket says. “But also traditionally, they looked very different.”

Gordon Christie agrees on the fluctuations within Indigenous groups. He’s Inuvialuit and a professor at the Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, who studies Aboriginal rights.

“It can be variable, depending on the community or nation,” Christie says. “You’re talking about many First Nations communities that have resisted the imposition of band councils since day one, and they continue to today. Others resisted in the early stages, but then became comfortable with the band council system.”

He says there are First Nations that are comfortable with the band council system because that’s what they have known for generations.

“You’ve got a whole range of different histories. You have to go to each nation and find out what their story is,” he says.

A HISTORY OF RESISTANCE

Christie say the 1920s were a turning point for First Nations communities in Canada, when the country put its foot down, making it illegal to litigate and shut down a lot of legal outlets for Indigenous communities.

“That was a time of strong resistance,” Christie says. “Canada’s response was to get more harsh in its position, and in some communities, it moved in and physically removed the old hereditary system and put in place the band council system.”

For now, he agrees with the hereditary chiefs.

“For the Wet’suwet’en, you have the houses and the clans,” he says. “It makes complete sense to say that they have legal authority over their house territories.”

 

Discover the Iniskim Centre at Mount Royal University


 

Mount Royal University’s Iniskim Centre offers programs and services to increase the engagement and success of Indigenous students while raising awareness of Indigenous peoples and cultures.  Mount Royal University is located on the traditional lands of the Blackfoot people, the Niitsitapi. The centre recognizes and respects the diversity of all Indigenous peoples of Canada. The centre also increases the awareness of distinct Indigenous cultures, history and protocols across the University.

With any program a student chooses, the Iniskim Centre will be there to help them prepare to succeed in their academic pursuits and future career. The Inskim Centre is here to encourage students throughout their program of study, providing resources such as academic and cultural support, academic advising, writing support, and scholarship information.

 

ABORIGINAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION PROGRAM

This program is a comprehensive support system designed to support students as they work towards a career in science and technology.

 

ABORIGINAL EDUCATION PROGRAM

Preparing students to pursue a postsecondary education with three levels of study providing upgrading in Math, English, Native Studies, and Science.

 

INDIGENOUS STUDENT HOUSING

A supportive community of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous students who live on campus. There are single units and family units at affordable rates. All students in the program gather for monthly social events.

 

MEDICINE TRAIL (NAATO’OHSOKOY) PROGRAM

Students can visit a coordinator and be a part of small and large group cultural teachings. They may also see a coordinator for support and guidance. The Iniskim Centre offers students a place and the resources to smudge each morning and hosts various ceremonies throughout the year.

A coordinator will also support professors by connecting them with wisdom keepers and elders.

 

STUDENT SUCCESS PROGRAM

Students have access to many of the resources provided by the centre such as, academic support, peer mentorship, counseling services, financial information, instructor office hours and tutorials. As a mentor, a student success coordinator will work with students to help ensure success.

To learn more about the Iniskim Centre and all supports available for Indigenous students, visit mru.ca/IndigenousMRU

Space, full of mysteries, still slowly being understood

These plots show the signals of gravitational waves detected by the twin LIGO observatories at Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The signals came from two merging black holes, each about 30 times the mass of our sun, lying 1.3 billion light-years away.
Photo by Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab

Corey M. Gray is a Siksika-goo-wan (Blackfoot) who grew up in Southern California. He earned dual Bachelor of Science degrees – one in physics and the other in applied mathematics – from Humboldt State University. Today he is an astronomer at Caltech’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO Hanford Observatory), one of only two LIGO facilities in the U.S.

Built in the arid Benton County, Washington State, the astronomical tool is an eight kilometer long L-shaped structure. Shortly after graduation, Gray was hired to install hardware for the first LIGO detector. He learned to operate the device and collect data on cosmic gravitational waves moving at the speed of light. “Black holes will sometimes merge and create gravitational waves just before merging and then go quiet,” says Gray, who eventually became the lead operator for the Hanford Observatory LIGO.

LIGO collects data on the merging of black holes from long ago and anything else that may make gravitational movement in outer space. Gravitational waves are recorded by using mirrors, laser beams, and hardware installed by Cory’s team. Instruments required frequent modification as this was experimental and the science was new. The second LIGO in Louisiana is necessary because LIGO requires two widely separated detectors operated in unison to rule out false signals.

The machine made its first detection of a real event on September 14, 2015, coincidentally on the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. This detection greatly supports Einstein’s work. From Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): “Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves as part of the theory of general relativity. In Einstein’s theory, space and time are aspects of a single measurable reality called space-time. Matter and energy are two expressions of a single material. We can think of space-time as a fabric; the presence of large amounts of mass or energy distorts space-time – in essence causing the fabric to ‘warp’ – and we observe this warpage as gravity. Freely falling objects – whether soccer balls, satellites, or beams of starlight – simply follow the most direct path in this curved space-time. When large masses move suddenly, some of this space-time curvature ripples outward, spreading in much the way as ripples on the surface of an agitated pond. When two dense objects such as neutron stars or black holes orbit each other, space-time is stirred by their motion and gravitational energy ripples throughout the universe.”

Asked how LIGO’s detections and recordings of the gravitational waves help us understand the universe, Gray tells First Nations Drum that a good chunk of astronomy can be explained by Newton’s law of gravity (for example how planets move around the Sun). “We can get information from stars by looking at them in telescopes, radio dishes, etc.  But this is only a small part of our universe. Our universe is incomprehensibly large, and in this large universe there are big objects (such as black holes) and strong-gravity events that happen quite often,” said Gray. “Gravitational waves come from these types of events, and we can learn something completely new and different with gravitational wave signals.”

Gray says that before LIGO’s detections “all we had to work with when we looked up at the stars was light. Light is something which happens from atomic reactions going on in objects like stars. Gravitational waves are generated by the actual objects. So it is like we have a completely new sense to get information about our universe. Gravitational wave astronomy has barely just started. We have ideas of new things we will detect, but the real exciting thing is we will definitely get some completely big surprises, too—something we had no idea about. And with all of this we get to learn more about the universe around us.”

The word on LIGO findings spread quickly because they were published translated into multiple languages, including the Siksika language. General Theory of Relativity translates to: bisaatsinsiimaan; Gravitational waves translates to: Abuduuxbiisiiy o? bigimskAAsts (meaning “things that stick together, ripples in the water”); Scientist translates to: mugagyabiguwAx (meaning “all encompassing smart person”); Black Holes translate to: sigooxgiya; Universe translates to: spuu?ts.

Many more translated words, pondered by the mind of Gray’s mother Sharon Yellow Fly, is found in official LIGO documents and online.

 

Breaking the Poverty Cycle: The Economic Impact of Post-Secondary Education

Ruby Barclay speaks out about the value of post-secondary education| Photo By Vancouver Island University

Ruby Barclay speaks out about the value of post-secondary education| Photo By Vancouver Island University

 

After a year of planning, Ruby Barclay arrived at Vancouver Island University (VIU) Student Residences from her hometown with two Rubbermaid totes and a duffel bag.

“That was it – that was my entire life,” she remembers. “The first day was really, really tough.”

While most youth transitioning to post-secondary rely on parents and extended family for support with school, living expenses and advice, Barclay had just aged out of BC’s youth in care system. Unlike many of her peers, Barclay did not have a parent to make the journey with her, take her to Costco to get supplies, or help instill the confidence she needed to succeed in her studies.

“I had to figure out and plan all these things on my own,” she says. “Getting my acceptance letter from VIU is still one of the best days of my life. For me, it meant there was a chance to have a future beyond 19, and that someone believed I could do it. It was an opportunity to access education that I otherwise wouldn’t have access to – VIU was one of the only institutions waiving tuition fees for those with lived experience in the care system.”

Fast forward to today, and Barclay, who finished the requirements for her Child and Youth Care degree last spring, has found work she’s passionate about – supporting others who have experienced the government care system as Youth Advisory Council Coordinator with the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre.

A new report commissioned by VIU analyzing the economic impact and return on investment of education at the University found that VIU contributed to the socio-economic well-being of the local and provincial community by $23.1 million due to the benefits of post-secondary education. Students earn more because of the skills and qualifications they acquire at VIU, are less likely to require income assistance or commit crimes for this reason, and are statistically more likely to develop good health habits, states the report.

In 2016-17, the 67 students who were supported by VIU through the Post Care Tuition Waiver Program will generate $2 million in benefits to the provincial government throughout their working lives. This means that not only does the program create opportunities for youth to better their lives, but it also has long-term benefits for all.

While at VIU, Barclay discovered, partly through her own experiences, that although the University paid tuition expenses for anyone who has spent time in the care system, there were no supports built in to meet the unique needs of these students and ensure they were successful once they got here. She developed a practicum placement that later turned into a paid position at VIU – Peer Support Navigator for the Post-Care Tuition Waiver Program.

“As the first institution in BC to adopt such a program, VIU had to learn our role in supporting former youth in care to succeed,” explains William Litchfield, Associate Vice-President of University Relations. “Despite still being a student, Ruby’s role was largely about teaching us how to best support students, and creating a sense of community and connectedness between VIU and tuition waiver students.”

For Barclay, her education breaks the cycle of poverty for her own family and future generations. But that’s not the only thing post-secondary did for her – it also helped her find her family.

“The biggest benefit of going to VIU, aside from education, was the community,” she says. “I didn’t grow up believing that I could be more than someone with lived experience in care until I found a community that believed I could.”

 

The Engineering Access Program (ENGAP) at University of Manitoba

Photo Courtesy of Marketing Communications Office at the University of Manitoba

The Engineering Access Program (ENGAP) is a friendly, warm and supportive community of students and staff that was originally developed to bring about a greater representation of Indigenous students (First Nation, Metis and Inuit) within the engineering profession. One ENGAP student shares his perspective:

“ENGAP is a welcoming family that focus’ 100% of their time and energy to promote student emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual health. ENGAP is my second home lead by a selfless director that encourages his staff with their amazing attitudes to promote our success. With the great people that run this program I am a proud student of Canada’s most successful Indigenous Engineering Access Program in Canada.”

– Chanse Kornik—Electrical Engineering

The success of ENGAP can be attributed to the wide array of supports it offers students, from academic, personal and financial to employment and community connections. If Indigenous students do not have the university entrance requirements, the ENGAP program offers free upgrading classes in math, physics, chemistry and computer science to help the students meet the highly competitive demands of engineering. In addition, ENGAP offers all of their students free tutoring, as well as the opportunity for ‘A’ students to become paid tutors. ENGAP then continues to support each student throughout their engineering degree, welcomes new Indigenous students at any stage of their degree and opens the door to all Direct Entry Indigenous students who are ready to take university credit courses.

Nicole Lambert, a Metis electrical engineering student shares her experience “ENGAP is a place where I’m always comfortable and surrounded by friends. It’s such a good resource for school and always welcoming.”

Our Indigenous engineering students have great career opportunities as they are sought after and hired for summer jobs, as well as after graduation.  In addition, when students are part of an engineering department they can experience term work positions through the Co-op program. For example, Nicole worked at Shell Canada for an 8 month Co-op work term.  We are proud to say she will be graduating with her Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering this coming spring!

ENGAP’s Application forms for the 2019/2020 Academic school year are due: MAY 1st.  Be sure to include all required documentation. Application forms can be found on our website.

For more information, please call (204) 474-9872 or toll free in Manitoba 1 (800) 432-1960 ext. 9872 or visit our website at www.engap.com