A team from VIU met colleagues at Pitzer College in Claremont

Vancouver Island University program earns U.S. funding

NANAIMO – Partnership with Pitzer College creates indigenous mentorship.

By Dane Gibson

Vancouver Island University is the only Canadian university to receive funding through the U.S. State Department’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund.

A proposal submitted recently to the organization with California’s Pitzer College was successful.

The funding will be used to bring two established indigenous mentorship programs together for the benefit of high school students.

VIU’s Su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins and Pitzer College’s Native Youth to College programs are joining forces to increase aboriginal student access and retention in post-secondary education by launching a cross-border mentorship exchange program for indigenous youth. The project was launched thanks to core funding provided by the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative, which is U.S. President Barack Obama’s signature education project to increase the number of U.S. students studying in the Western Hemisphere to 100,000, and the number of Western Hemisphere students studying in the United States to 100,000 by 2020.

“What we are trying to do goes beyond the standard approach to academics. We are drawing on native North American post-secondary scholars and elders to work together to contribute cultural knowledge and traditional ways of learning within an academic environment,” said Sylvia Scow, VIU aboriginal projects and elder support coordinator. “Current post-secondary students from both our institutions will mentor high school students with input and guidance from our elders. The high school students will experience an aboriginal culture other than their own and through it all, they will be exploring key issues facing indigenous communities like climate change, fisheries and community development.”

Scott Scoggins is the director of Pitzer College’s Native American Youth to College program. The idea to partner with VIU took shape when he was at VIU this summer to attend the Indigenous Knowledge and Portfolio Dialogue Sessions that took place at Nanaimo campus.

“When I came to VIU I really connected with how indigenous studies programming was being delivered. What was happening at VIU was exciting and I could see how it complemented where we were going with our programming,” said Scoggins.

The first student exchange is scheduled to occur with student mentors as well as high school students and elders from each country in the summer of 2017.

Dane Gibson is a writer with VIU communications.

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