CFUW-50 years of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment

Sup­port­ing Abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL NEWS - Sub­mit­ted by the CFUW

Imag­ine what it must feel like to have lived your whole life in a closely-knit com­mu­nity, then sud­denly find your­self in an ed­u­ca­tional en­vi­ron­ment hun­dreds or thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away, where your cul­ture is not nec­es­sar­ily rep­re­sented in the en­vi­ron­ment around you, nor in the course ma­te­rial you study.

“This is the re­al­ity faced by many In­dige­nous stu­dents when they choose to pur­sue a post-se­condary ed­u­ca­tion” said Randi Heather­ing­ton, Co­or­di­na­tor of Abo­rig­i­nal Ser­vices at Cham­plain Len­noxville. “Here at Cham­plain College Len­noxville we have de­vel­oped a va­ri­ety of ser­vices de­signed to ad­dress th­ese chal­lenges in or­der to cham­pion Abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents in their pur­suit of aca­demic suc­cess. In re­cent years we have been very for­tu­nate to be sup­ported in our en­deav­ors by the CFUW Sher­brooke & District, and the Lampe Foun­da­tion, which have con­trib­uted to our ef­forts in multiple ways,” Heather­ing­ton added.

In 2015, spurred on by CFUW’S Que­bec Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil that had pri­or­i­tized sup­port for Abo­rig­i­nal ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives, Sher­brooke & District CFUW reached out to learn about the pro­gram at Cham­plain. The CFUW Que­bec City Club had been pro­vid­ing schol­ar­ships for Abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents from the Huron­wen­dake na­tion to at­tend Laval Univer­sity for many years. “One of the things that we learned from their ex­pe­ri­ence”, said CFUW mem­ber Carol Mooney, “was to ask (rather than pre­sume) what their needs were and how we could best as­sist them.” When the CFUW met with Randi Heather­ing­ton, she ex­plained that the stu­dents of­ten plan to re­turn to their home com­mu­ni­ties upon grad­u­at­ing to help ad­dress some of the sys­temic, of­ten colo­nially based chal­lenges fac­ing their peo­ple – abuse, vi­o­lence, cor­rup­tion. Th­ese young peo­ple re­al­ize that ed­u­ca­tion is key to ad­dress­ing many of the com­plex chal­lenges fac­ing their peo­ple and their com­mu­ni­ties. It will al­low them to be­come role mod­els and fa­cil­i­ta­tors of change in their com­mu­ni­ties, en­abling their com­mu­ni­ties “to walk side-by-side with non-in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties”.

A widely held per­cep­tion is that Abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents are fully funded to at­tend CEGEP or univer­sity, when in fact one of the great­est bar­ri­ers fac­ing In­dige­nous stu­dents pur­su­ing an ed­u­ca­tion is fi­nan­cial. Many of th­ese stu­dents have to leave their com­mu­ni­ties to pur­sue an ed­u­ca­tion, some­times leav­ing be­hind jobs or roles that were sup­port­ing their fam­i­lies or com­mu­nity. When they come to College, hav­ing their own apart­ments or liv­ing in stu­dent res­i­dences is a ne­ces­sity, not choice. While some re­ceive as­sis­tance from their band coun­cil or ed­u­ca­tion cen­tres to de­fray the cost of ac­com­mo­da­tion and liv­ing ex­penses, many do not. The As­sem­bly of First Na­tions pointed out that even with fed­eral gov­ern­ment sup­port, most bands don’t have the fi­nances to as­sist all their stu­dents in need. At Cham­plain Len­noxville, stu­dents of­ten strug­gle near the end of term to buy food as their funds are near­ing de­ple­tion. In re­sponse to this need, and to help bridge that fund­ing gap, the CFUW es­tab­lished a food card pro­gram and to date has gath­ered more than $1,350 through mem­ber con­tri­bu­tions to help Abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents at Cham­plain Len­noxville buy gro­ceries.

Dur­ing dis­cus­sions with Heather­ing­ton, the CFUW learned that another area where the stu­dents could use some help was with ap­ply­ing for na­tion­ally funded schol­ar­ships. Many schol­ar­ship pro­grams re­quire stu­dents to write let­ters of introduction/ap­pli­ca­tion and of­ten it is th­ese let­ters that are an im­por­tant de­ter­mi­nant in stu­dents be­ing se­lected as schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ents. Many of the lo­cal CFUW mem­bers are re­tired teachers so it was a nat­u­ral fit for mem­bers to vol­un­teer to as­sist stu­dents with their let­ters. Heather­ing­ton ex­plained, “English is of­ten their sec­ond or third lan­guage and they are com­pet­ing with stu­dents from across Canada whose first lan­guage is English or French”. In 2017, one of the stu­dents was suc­cess­ful in ac­quir­ing a $1,000 schol­ar­ship thanks to the help re­ceived from CFUW vol­un­teers.

The club’s af­fil­i­ate, the Lampe Foun­da­tion, also es­tab­lished the Dr. Roberta Cameron Abo­rig­i­nal Awards in 2017. Three awards of $400 each are given to stu­dents in the Abo­rig­i­nal pro­gram at Cham­plain Len­noxville who, de­spite many chal­lenges, have demon­strated de­ter­mi­na­tion and per­se­ver­ance to suc­ceed in their stud­ies. In ad­di­tion, the CFUW Club and Lampe Foun­da­tion are cur­rently rais­ing funds to es­tab­lish an In­dige­nous Schol­ar­ship in the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment at Bishop’s Univer­sity.

A potluck din­ner pro­vided by the CFUW mem­bers has be­come an an­nual tra­di­tion that many Abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents at Cham­plain Len­noxville look for­ward to each Jan­uary. It is a chance for the stu­dents and the vol­un­teers from CFUW to come to­gether to cel­e­brate the stu­dents’ suc­cess. It also pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for shar­ing and an ex­change of cul­tural un­der­stand­ing. Mem­bers of the club bring an ar­ray of dishes to pro­vide a buf­fet for the stu­dents. This year, 23 stu­dents at­tended the sup­per pre­pared by 10 vol­un­teers from the club. This is also the event where the Dr. Roberta Cameron Awards are pre­sented.

Stu­dents from the Abo­rig­i­nal pro­gram re­cently sent a note thank­ing the club for its sup­port. “All of th­ese ef­forts (food cards, schol­ar­ships and potluck sup­pers) en­cour­age us to ob­tain our goals in life. They are much ap­pre­ci­ated!” the note read. Heather­ing­ton also added her thanks. “Your con­tin­ued sup­port is an im­por­tant part of what helps stu­dents suc­ceed-and they are suc­ceed­ing!”

“What could be more in­spir­ing than know­ing you are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of th­ese stu­dents!” said Judy Hopps, Club Pres­i­dent.

This is the sec­ond ar­ti­cle in a se­ries about CFUW, Sher­brooke & District who are cel­e­brat­ing 50 years in 2018. Its vi­sion is to be a dy­namic club for all women in the East­ern Town­ships, en­gaged in our com­mu­nity by pro­mot­ing ed­u­ca­tion and life-long learn­ing in a gen­der-equal so­ci­ety. To learn more about CFUW Sher­brooke & District, please con­tact at


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