Going to university or college for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. I remember my first day at university. Nobody greeted me, nobody helped me register for classes and certainly nobody knew my name. It was tough. Having a support system in place to help you navigate university can help immensely and ease some of the anxiety with starting your post-secondary education. Fortunately, many institutions like Cape Breton University’s In.Business partner institution, Vancouver Island University (VIU) are implementing programs to help ease the transitions for Indigenous students. In 2011, created a program called ‘Su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins. Think of it as having a ready-made group of students that are there to be your biggest cheerleaders and to support you on those tough days and trust me there will be those days.
Students are trained by existing mentors that are in the program with the guidance and support of a staff member and an elder (Vancouver Island currently has nine elders-in-residence). Elders support mentors in learning local Aboriginal cultural protocols and traditional knowledge. Of course students always have the option of talking to an elder or Aboriginal education counsellor, but sometimes it helps to talk to someone your own age. Once trained, mentors assist incoming students in creating and encouraging connections to successfully transition into post-secondary. The mentorship program invites all Aboriginal students to participate in mentorship training with the purpose of developing leadership skills and building community.
Programs like this foster a sense of community and family on campuses, especially large campuses. That’s why it is important for students to ask questions about what programs and supports an institution has in place to help Aboriginal students create a sense of belonging when choosing a school.
To learn more about ‘Su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins visit their web page at: https://www2.viu.ca/communitycousins/ or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pacific Regional Manager, In.Business