Dr. Kathy Snow, an Assistant Professor in the Education department at Cape Breton University, knows the challenges of staying in school in small communities. For four years, Dr. Snow has supported student success and persistence initiatives within Indigenous communities in Mi’kmaki and Inuit Nunangat (the four regions in Canada where traditional Inuit communities are located – Quebec, Labrador, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut).
Dr. Snow has a strong connection with her most recent research, which aims to create a lasting impact on suicide prevention through school-based wellness programming. “This project has deep meaning for me, it is an opportunity to go home and re-connect and support the community that gave me my start in life,” says Dr. Snow, who grew up in Nunavut. “I am in many ways a product of the Nunavut education system and from first-hand experience, I know school in Nunavut is hard, youth are faced with challenges that are unparalleled in the South.”
Dr. Snow’s research was recently awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant valued at $69,713 over the span of two years. She will be joined by co-investigator, Becky Tootoo, a teacher at Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School and collaborator, Dr. Heather Schmidt, Assistant Professor in Psychology at Cape Breton University. Together, they will conduct a youth-led participatory action research project titled Ajurnaqtut Aniguinnasuut: Turning Grief into Empowerment which aims to support Inuit youth in the community of Qamanittuaq (Baker Lake).
“Inuit youth face the unique challenge of identity formation between two worlds, traditional Inuit life and modern life influenced by qallunaat (non-Inuit) society,” says Dr. Snow. “This internal tension has been identified as contributing to the high rates of suicide observed in Indigenous communities.”
Through evidence gathered from student-centered research, Dr. Snow hopes to provide valuable information to those working in education so they can develop, evaluate and prioritize initiatives around suicide prevention and Inuit identity development.
Dr. Snow’s connection to home is not the only special bond she has with this research. Many years ago, co-investigator Becky Tootoo was a student of Dr. Snow’s mother. “Now we have re-connected and have an opportunity to work together with her as my teacher and guide,” says Dr. Snow. “For me, this is what reconciliation is about, working together, learning from one another and (re)visioning education to think beyond grades and graduation rates, to healthy communities.”
Congratulations, Dr. Snow!