Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Creating Momentum in Aboriginal Education

Consider this: more than one-third of Aboriginal people of high school age or older have not completed high school, and only eight per cent of Canadian Aboriginal people between the ages of 25 and 64 have a university degree.

It’s easy to see why Aboriginal education should be a policy priority for all levels of government in Canada. Education, particularly at the college or university level, is critical to helping all of us achieve our goals, support our families, and compete in a quickly changing job market. Historically, few First Nations students have had the tools or support to succeed in post-secondary education. Fortunately, in the past few years, there are indications that this tide is shifting.

Recognizing the challenge and the importance of providing support and access to education for Aboriginal Canadians, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) has made Aboriginal education one of its priority policy items and has been lobbying the federal government to increase funding for Aboriginal students. The AUCC has also launched a number of dynamic online tools to create awareness and understanding of the success many young First Nations students have achieved at the university level. Among these tools is a summary of opportunities in education across Canada for Aboriginal students. AUCC has also produced a compilation of resources for Aboriginal students, including a list of bursaries, indigenous services, transition programs, and elder visits across the country.

Jenna Marr, a first-year Mi’kmaq student from Indian Brook, is featured prominently as a success story in the AUCC database. Jenna, one of the Mount’s student ambassadors, is currently studying in our Public Relations program, and has helped our recruitment team reach out to prospective students through campus tours, special on-campus events, and school visits. We’re proud of Jenna’s contributions and her work as a role model for other Mi’kmaq youth.

At the Mount, we’ve introduced a number of initiatives to better support and encourage Mi’kmaq and other Aboriginal students. Our Aboriginal Advisory Committee has been instrumental in giving insights to the university’s leadership team on how we can do a better job of building a community where Aboriginal students are able to achieve their goals. We also recently welcomed Art Stevens as the Mount’s new Coordinator of Aboriginal Services to develop programming and resources to support our First Nations students.

Most recently, on February 28, I was delighted to join staff, students, and special guests from the community for the opening of the Mount’s Aboriginal Student Centre. The Centre was established as a community hub where students can meet, chat, and have access to a resident counselor. Dr. Don Julien, Executive Director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq and member of our Aboriginal Advisory Committee, led us in prayer as part of the day’s ceremonies. We’re grateful for his leadership and for the support, wisdom and guidance of all members of our Advisory Committee.

Securing access to education affects all of us, whether at the campus, community, or national level. It’s vital—to our communities, our country, but most importantly, to young Aboriginal students from across the country—to ensure we are providing the tools for Aboriginal students to realize their dreams.

Until next time,



Joan O' said...

Ramona, thanks for sharing this. It makes me feel those in College and University will work together with others to ensure that our children who are aboriginal living in inadequate homes, with no clean water, substandard education on and off reserves will sooner, rather than later, have what they need to thrive.

Joan O'Keefe, sc

Dr. Ramona Lumpkin said...

Thanks, Joan, for your positive words of encouragement. Yes, ensuring that Aboriginal youth thrive should be a shared goal for all of us.