Summer Camp Makes Transition to University Easier for Indigenous Students

Portrait of mentors for VIU's Indigenous summer camp

From left: Falon Crosby, Clarissa Peter, Hayden Taylor and Theresa Johnny are planning out an exciting lineup of events for students participating in Thuy’she’num Tu Smun’eem Indigenous summer camp.

June 22, 2021 - 5:15pm

The camp, which includes a blend of online and in-person activities, is organized by the VIU ‘su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins Aboriginal mentorship program.

A free summer camp for Indigenous youth in Grades 7-12 will connect students with culture, build community and make the transition to university easier. 

The Thuy’she’num Tu Smun’eem: Building a Foundation for our Youth summer camp runs July 6 to August 18 and is organized and run by students in Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) ‘su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins Aboriginal mentorship program. Aside from getting to know the mentors and other students, the camp will feature cultural teachings, personal development and goal setting workshops, land-based learning exercises, interactive games and outdoor activities. The goal is to get Indigenous youth to see themselves as belonging at post-secondary, and to show them that they don’t have to leave their culture behind when they attend.

“The camp is a wonderful opportunity to connect with the S’ul-hween (Elders), our VIU community, students our team and the xe’ xe’ tumuhw (sacred land),” says Falon Crosby, one of the camp coordinators and a recent graduate of VIU’s Post Baccalaureate program in Education. “Our main themes for the summer camp are mentorship and culture. The camp fosters an environment where students can create meaningful connections with Elders, peers, mentors, coordinators and themselves. Our aim is to help the youth to find out who they are and where they are going.”

Students will meet three days a week and will include both online and in-person elements, following public health guidelines. The Grades 10-12 students will start July 6 and go through mentorship training so that they can support the Grades 7-9 students when they start the following week.  

Group photo of mentors for VIU's Indigenous summer camp

“We’re building a community of peers who can support and lift each other up,” says Clarissa Peter, Program Coordinator with VIU’s Office of Indigenous Education & Engagement and a VIU graduate. “We will focus on honing leadership skills and the importance of balancing culture and academics and help students develop confidence, leadership and life skills.”

The magic of the camp is in story sharing so youth can see their own path in the journeys of others.

Crosby, who is proudly of Shíshálh, Quw’utsun, Tsimshian (Kitselas), European, Hawaiian, Central and South American origin, struggled to feel like she could be successful at university. In parallel, she has also been on a journey reclaiming and honouring her Indigeneity.

Education student Hayden Taylor, a member of the Haisla Nation in Kitimat, grew up in the foster care system and did not connect with his culture until he started university and had the chance to volunteer with the local Indigenous community around VIU. He is excited to help others explore their identity as he did and show them how it’s impacted his own life.

“Providing a fun, exciting and safe environment for youth to learn is a passion of mine and a reason why I wanted to get involved with Thuy’she’num Tu Smun’eem,” he says. “Welcoming Elders, educators, peers, and communities into my live has allowed me to explore and start to learn my native language and start to teach my own two children the language.”

Peter, who graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts, major in Indigenous Studies and Minor in History, is a member of Cowichan Tribes. Her grandfather’s brother was Ray Peter, who was a VIU Elder-in-Residence for years and inspired her to continue her education here. She wants youth to feel more comfortable in telling their stories and, as a result, feeling confident in pursuing further education.

The camps have been running at VIU since 2017, thanks to the generosity of The Peter Cundill Foundation, which has given VIU a grant to run the program for the past five years. Established in 2012, the Foundation honours the legacy of renowned Canadian investment fund manager and philanthropist Peter Cundill and has an emphasis on promoting the health, education and well-being of young people.

“We are grateful to all of our community partners for their financial support of Indigenous students at VIU and programming that helps youth feel confident in attending university,” says Sylvia Scow, VIU’s Manager of Indigenous Protocol.

For more information and to apply, email


Media Contact:

Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Advisor, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Community Engagement | Indigenous | Announcements

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