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October 2016 Update
 
The University of Sudbury First Nation scholarship goes to 2nd-year UofS students who have successfully completed their first-year studies at one of two indigenous education centres.  The scholarship is $7,500 per student per year for 3 years; students are not required to major in indigenous studies but must take at least one course from that program.  RC Oakville Trafalgar has committed to providing funds to one scholarship student, and the Club has just selected the first scholarship recipient.  She is a mature student from the Anishinabek Kwe First Nation and is starting her 3rd year in Indigenous Studies and a minor in Indigenous Healing and Wellness at the University of Sudbury. She is on the Dean’s Honour List and plans a graduate degree in Indigenous Health. She has volunteered with First Nations youth and for a Cultural Sensitivity Training Workshop. She had a summer job conducting research with the Poverty, Homelessness, and Migration in Northern Communities team. Upon graduation she plans to work with First Nations communities in the field of Indigenous Health. Here are her words from her application. “Although it has been a struggle financially to get myself to this point, I feel like I have been given an amazing opportunity to be a student at University of Sudbury, learning and experiencing more than I could have ever imagined. When I started this program I told myself that I would work extremely hard, that I would put myself out there, and find a positive way to give back to my community…”.  RCOT is continuing to search for partner clubs for this Scholarship. They have a presentation for interested clubs and any size donation would be appreciated. Cheques can be made out to RCOT Foundation, (put Rotary Indigenous Scholarship in the memo line), Box 52104, Oakville, ON. L6J 7N5.
 
University of Sudbury First Nation Scholarship
Brought forward by RC Oakville Trafalgar, the University of Sudbury First Nation scholarship goes to 2nd-year University of Sudbury students and is $7,500 per year for 3 years; students are not required to major in indigenous studies but must take at least one course from that program.  RC Oakville Trafalgar has committed to fund the scholarship for one student for the next 3 years and hopes to bring at least one more club on board to allow the scholarships to be awarded to 2 additional recipients.  If your club can help with a contribution or would like more information, please contact Bill Kerr at wkerr@on.aibn.com.
 
Background
Currently, 80% of indigenous students who are accepted into a university program, do not complete their first year.  Studies have shown that the single most important factor in successful completion of a post-secondary education program is having a caring, knowledgeable mentor.  Aboriginal students have difficulty accessing both funding and mentoring, resulting in a high drop-out rate during first year.  Note:  the federal government froze the total grant allotment to First Nations students in 1992; currently funding is available only to status Indian candidates and, in many cases, falls short of total needs by about $7,500.
 
The University of Sudbury, a college of Laurentian University, has established programs with two indigenous education centres for first year indigenous students.  The first centre, Kenjgewin Teg Educational Institute [KTEI], is located on Manitoulin Island [Mnidoo Mnising] and the 2nd, the Moose Cree Educational Authority, is located on Moose Factory Island.  First year indigenous students complete their first year University of Sudbury [UofS] courses at one of these two centres, where they have both mentoring and social supports.  After successful completion of their first year, students will move to the University of Sudbury campus to complete their program of study.  In the inaugural year, 25 students started their UofS program at one of the two education centres.  Of the 25 who started, 24 students successfully completed their first year—the one student who didn’t complete had received a challenging medical diagnosis.
 
The goals of the First Nation Scholarship include:
  • Senior scholarship students providing mentoring to future recipients
  • Scholarship graduates that will return to their communities and work to improve governance and services for their communities
  • Graduates of the program are more likely to achieve better employment opportunities in their communities or elsewhere and/or in the industries located in their area
  • Influencing future generations to complete their secondary school diploma and to pursue post-secondary education
The University of Sudbury has already been inspired to expand from two education centres to four; they have applied for funding to expand the program to two centres located in communities along the western coast of James Bay.  In the long term the UofS dream is to be able to offer more than first year, so that indigenous students will not have to leave their communities at all in order to continue their education.  This could be the basis for a potential larger-scale project in the future, when full university programs could be delivered in each of the four major coastal communities: Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Fort Albany and Moose Factory. 
 
How can Rotary help with the University of Sudbury First Nation Scholarship program?  There are a number of ways:
  1. Raise funds to allow more indigenous students to participate in the University of Sudbury First Nation Scholarship
  2. Work with UofS to provide mentoring for students while they are in university
  3. Help with networking and resources for students’ employment search after graduation
The University of Sudbury provides accountability and supervision and, with their partners, will ensure mentoring services are provided so that each scholarship recipient is positioned to succeed.