University announces new Aboriginal Mentorship award

Two TRU students reap the first benefits of hefty TD Bank donation

Alan Shaver, aboriginal mentor Jolene Michel, and TD Bank Group's Mauro Manzi hold up the $350,000 cheque. (Alexis Stockford/The Omega)

Alan Shaver, aboriginal mentor Jolene Michel, and TD Bank Group’s Mauro Manzi hold up the $350,000 cheque. (Alexis Stockford/The Omega)

Two students from TRU’s Aboriginal Mentorship Program have some financial room to breathe thanks to a new bursary announced Oct. 7.

Senior mentor Jolene Mitchel and first-year student Anastazia Munroe are the first recipients of the Aboriginal Mentorship Awards, receiving $5,000 and $2,000 respectively. After this year, the number of recipients will double, with two mentors and two new students receiving awards.

“To have them support not only the mentors, but mentees, is really important I think,” said Vernie Clement, Aboriginal mentor and community co-ordinator.

The Aboriginal Mentor Program is meant to connect new aboriginal students with experienced students in their third or fourth year. According to Clement, the program helps first-time students transition into university and provides a support network for students away from home.

“It’s just nice to have a hand to help them just be oriented and to feel like they belong,” Clement said.

“[The mentor program] eased you into university,” award-winner Munroe said. “It wasn’t just like diving in and feeling overwhelmed.”

The first-year bachelor of arts student is originally from Fort St. James, a town of less that 2,000 people. Coming to TRU was a bit of a culture shock she said, but added that she is enjoying the experience.

“It’s a great feeling. You’re not so closed in and feeling isolated,” Munroe said.

The new award is funded by TD Bank Group, which has committed $350,000 to the Aboriginal Mentorship Program over the next five years.

“We looked to identify opportunities for development and we certainly do appreciate the values of diversity and inclusiveness,” said Mauro Manzi, senior vice-president of TD Bank Group, Pacific Region. “So we’re quite excited to work with Thompson Rivers to put together this endowment and excited to be with the program for many, many years.”

According to TRU president Alan Shaver, TD Bank has been a “valued supporter” of the university, providing funds for special events, student awards and new building projects, but this is the company’s biggest contribution to date.

Shaver added that the gift is in line with TRU’s mandate of diversity.

“We have to have people in our classes,” he said. “On our faculty, on our staff from different groups, and support for them to bring their brain power and their perspectives and their history and social outlook to us, to the university, so that everyone can benefit from the creativity that that brings.”