VIU Hosts Three Summer Camps for Indigenous High School Students

Natalie Johnson, left, Sheldon Scow, Amber Crittenden and Crystal Burnip are excited to organize three camps for Indigenous youth this summer.

July 3, 2018 - 11:00am

Free camps held at the University’s Cowichan, Powell River and Nanaimo Campuses

Making the transition to university can be scary if you don’t know anybody there and you’ve never stepped foot on a university campus before.

Three free summer camps for Indigenous high school students being organized by students in Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) ‘su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins Aboriginal mentorship program aim to change that. The four-day camps, hosted 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.

“These unique camps combine educational activities with cultural teachings,” says Amber Crittenden, an Anthropology student of Métis, Danish and French descent. “I’m excited to show students that you don’t lose who you are when you come to VIU. Here, you are encouraged to celebrate your identity as an Indigenous person. Here, you can walk in both worlds.”

Thuy’she’num Tu Smun’eem: Building a foundation for our Youth summer camps started last year with the goal of increasing the number of Indigenous students moving on to post-secondary – statistics show that less than half of Indigenous high school students make the transition to university right after they graduate. 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, and outdoor activities such as swimming, paddling and hiking.

The Peter Cundill Foundation has given VIU a grant of more than $300,000 to run the summer camp program for 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.

“We’d like to acknowledge the hard work of the Office of Aboriginal Education and Engagement and VIU students in putting together this visionary program,” says Peter Webster, a Trustee of The Peter Cundill Foundation. “I was honoured to be invited to attend the closing ceremony last year and was really moved to see the impact this program has made in the lives of young Indigenous students. Hearing these youth speak with such confidence about their experiences and dreams reinforced for us what a worthwhile program this is.”

The camps take place at VIU’s Cowichan Campus July 3-6, Powell River Campus July 16-19, and Nanaimo Campus August 7-10. The Duncan camp will be during the day only; at Powell River students will stay at the Powell Lake Outdoor Learning Centre, and in Nanaimo, students will stay in VIU Residences, giving them a true taste of university life. For some students from remote communities, this will be their first time away from home.

“Over the four days, we will focus on building relationships with the students and encouraging them to consider continuing on with their education,” says Natalie Johnson, a VIU Child and Youth Care student and member of the Esketemc First Nation. “What’s exciting about this summer camp program is the blending of academic and cultural components – one moment students are participating in land-based teachings, the next we are discussing budgeting or teaching them how to blog.”

For Sheldon Scow, a VIU First Nations Studies student from Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation and Liidlii Kue First Nation, who was also a camp leader last summer, says one of the highlights of the experience is watching students discover their culture – some of them for the first time.

“Last year, the students taught me more than I taught them,” he remembers. “I share with them that I just discovered my culture a couple years ago, and that VIU has been a safe, welcoming place to do that. I hope what these camps remind students is that their culture is waiting for them when they are ready.”

Sylvia Scow, VIU’s Aboriginal Projects Coordinator and Elder Support, says another focus is on helping the students identify a mentor in their life and their families will have the chance to get involved in the camps.

The Cowichan camp is now full, but there is still room in the camps being held at the Powell River and Nanaimo campuses. For more information or to sign up, email or or visit the Thuy’she’num Tu Smun’eem Facebook page.




Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6559 | C: 250.619.6860 | E| T: @VIUNews

Tags: Community Cousins | Indigenous | Announcements

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email