June 6, 2019 - 4:00pm
Thanks to the generosity of The Peter Cundill Foundation, VIU is offering three free camps at the University’s Cowichan, Powell River and Nanaimo campuses this summer to encourage high school students to consider post-secondary.
Making the transition to university can be scary, especially if you have never left your community before, or pictured yourself as a university student.
Three free summer camps for Indigenous high school students organized by students in Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) ‘su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins Aboriginal mentorship program aim to change that. The five-day camps, hosted partly at VIU’s campuses in Duncan, Powell River and Nanaimo, will give students that important first introduction to university life and showcase the supports the University offers all students.
“The purpose of these camps is to get students to see themselves at a post-secondary institution, that university or college is an option for them if they choose to pursue it,” says Sheldon Scow, a VIU First Nations Studies student from Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation and Liidlii Kue First Nation. “We’re showing them it is possible to walk in both worlds – the cultural and the academic. That you don’t need to choose but are able to have the best of both worlds.”
Thuy’she’num Tu Smun’eem: Building a foundation for our Youth summer camps started in 2017 with the goal of increasing the number of Indigenous students moving on to post-secondary. Led by VIU students with help from Elders and faculty members, the camps explore VIU programming and also include Elder teachings, land-based learning, interactive games, beading, drumming and outdoor activities such as swimming, paddling and hiking. Programming follows four themes: the value of post-secondary education; financial literacy and personal budgeting; building a pathway to success; and building a sense of belonging.
The Peter Cundill Foundation has given VIU a grant to run the summer camp program for the past three 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.
“The Peter Cundill Foundation is delighted to work with the Office of Aboriginal Education and Engagement and VIU students in enhancing the educational opportunities it offers to young Indigenous students,” says David Feather, Foundation Chair. “We hope that participation in these camps will enable them to broaden their horizons and strengthen their communities.”
Amber Crittenden, an Anthropology student of Métis, Danish and French descent who is entering her second year as a camp leader, says the impact on students is powerful.
“A lot of the kids were starting to really consider the opportunities and realize that there’s a world outside of their own community that they can go to – so many of them weren’t even thinking they would graduate from high school when they first entered the camp and by the end, they were asking me about university programs,” she says.
The camps take place in Powell River July 15-19; in Cowichan July 29 to August 2; and in Nanaimo August 12-16. Powell River camp participants will stay at the Powell Lake Outdoor Learning Centre; the Cowichan camp is a day camp only; and in Nanaimo, students will stay at VIU Residences.
Scow says for many of the overnight camp participants, it will be their first experience staying on their own and taking on the responsibility of ensuring they are prepared for each day’s activities, which will make it easier if they decide to return for post-secondary.
New this year is training three participants who have been through the camps over the past two years to take on mentorship roles. Thanks to the Office of Aboriginal Education and Engagement’s exchange agreement with Pitzer College in California, one student and one faculty member take on the duties of camp leader and instructor, respectively.
In addition to funding from The Peter Cundill Foundation, the ‘su’luqw’a’ program has received funding from the Royal Bank of Canada to move forward with the development of shush u’yulh (older brother/sister), an Aboriginal alumni program that aims to keep VIU alumni connected and giving back, completing the circle of mentorship, which also includes the ‘su’luqw’a’ (current VIU students) and squle’eq (younger brother/sister) mentors.
Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Advisor, Vancouver Island University