Sydana Johnson, with the Ligwiltach Elders and Youth Culture Group, performs at Vancouver Island University Wednesday. It was announced that $13.5 million in funding will be made available to remove barriers for indigenous learners. (Vancouver Island University photo)

Sydana Johnson, with the Ligwiltach Elders and Youth Culture Group, performs at Vancouver Island University Wednesday. It was announced that $13.5 million in funding will be made available to remove barriers for indigenous learners. (Vancouver Island University photo)

VIU to see $13.5M available for indigenous learners

Vancouver Island University teams with Rideau Hall and MasterCard foundations.

Nanaimo aboriginal students stand to benefit from $13.5 million coming from a new Vancouver Island University partnership.

The university has teamed with MasterCard Foundation and Rideau Hall Foundation, for an initiative intended to remove barriers affecting indigenous youth. According to Sharon Hobenshield, university aboriginal education and engagement director, $9 million will go to scholarships and the remainder will go to supports and education navigator workers, who will do outreach to secondary schools.

“What we were hearing from communities prior, and our stats show that, very few high school students transition indigenous right into post-secondary,” said Hobenshield. “So we want to work on that with our local high schools and create some programming and also with community and get these navigators out into some of these really remote communities, where they may not have known anyone who’s gone on to post-secondary and so to get out and do some outreach and speak about it, promote it, talk about what it looks like, just to make it more real for people.”

Emmy Manson, a member of the Snuneymuxw First Nation who will be working with the students, said the announcement is in line with Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations.

“We’re hoping that with this initiative that we’re going to increase enrolment for Snuneymuxw to come to VIU, as we’re in the traditional territory, and so one of the things is around increasing first-year students that are going into bachelor degree programs,” said Manson.

Manson, who attended VIU and has a masters degree from the University of Victoria, said education is valuable for indigenous peoples.

“I guess for me, the value of education, is it can be a tool to de-colonize,” said Manson. “It can be a tool to create capacity within our nation, as we need people to go back and work in our communities in all levels and I think that in order for us to take ownership and really operate from a good place, we need our youth and our young adults to be educated.”

MasterCard Foundation is the funding partner and Rideau Hall foundation is the managing partner.

reporter@nanaimobulletin.com