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Finding Your Gifts – Real World Advice for Aboriginal Post Secondary Students

“Our purpose in life is to find our gifts and to use them.” With these words, Gerry Oleman, an elder of the Stl’atl’imx Nation, welcomes Aboriginal students considering post secondary education to a new online resource, findingyourgifts.ca.

Canned SalmoniStock000004071278SmallAmong the many activities of BCcampus is the hosting of resource sites that support post secondary learning for all British Columbians. Produced by the Community Education Office and 7th Floor Media at Simon Fraser University with the support of the Inukshuk Fund, Finding Your Gifts brings together Aboriginal students to share their own experiences as post secondary students. The site offers practical, real-life advice on how to navigate everything  from band funding to time management while nurturing mind, body and spirit.

Gary George remembers the culture shock of coming to university in Vancouver from a small community in northern B.C.  “My parents literally shipped us jarred salmon while we were going to school down here. They shipped us jarred salmon, they shipped us jarred moose meat and it was such a blessing to get that in. I’d get a crate from my Mom and Dad and they’d say ‘Here’s something from us to help you out down there’.”

Angela Semple advises students considering post secondary to just send the application in “For me, that letter was just validation that I could do it. So send the letter and see where it takes you. You have nothing to lose, really.”

Joyce Schneider, now a PhD. Student, recalls some of the challenges of hearing racist comments in the classroom as an undergraduate and what brought her back, “It was for something bigger than myself. It was for my children, it was for the community, and I just needed to keep going and not let it get taken away by the ignorance of some. So I went back and finished.”

Finding Your Gifts brings together advice from elders, students and First Nations student centres to give Aboriginal students the best possible chance for success in post secondary education.  Gerry Oleman adds,“You’re building a new canoe for yourself and your family, if you have one, or the family you’re going to have. And it’s going to carry you if you master what you’re coming here for.”

For more information contact Judy Smith at judy_smith@sfu.ca