Giving Aboriginal students a head start at university

TRU and School District 73 host an event to familiarize high school students with the TRU campus

Joanne Brown shares her experience and values of university to students on Transitions Day.

Joanne Brown shares her experience and values of university to students on Transitions Day. (Peter Navratil/The Omega)

On Nov. 17, almost 150 Aboriginal high school students from School District 73 visited campus to get acquainted with a school they may be attending in the future. The visit was part of TRU’s tenth annual Trades and Transitions Day.

“Today is your day, be you, who you are matters … This is the first day of the rest of your life,” said Paul Michel, TRU’s Executive Director of Aboriginal Education, welcoming students to the event. The first event of the day was a welcome ceremony in the Irving K. Barber Centre, and included a drum performance, an opening prayer and welcoming speeches.

The welcome ceremony also featured a student panel made up of Aboriginal TRU students and alumni from various years and disciplines of study.

Panellists Adrienne Boyce, Marissa Eustache, Jeffery McNeil-Seymour, Mackenzie Manuel and Bruce Fleury were happy to offer the knowledge they have gained over their time at TRU and give a student perspective on coming to university.

The panel gave useful school advice like “always take the opportunity if you need to talk to your teachers … Don’t be intimidated, they are there to help you and they will give you really good advice,” Eustache said.

McNeil-Seymour offered personal advice to students experiencing discrimination by saying “take up all those issues of homophobia, or classism, or racism and take them as a challenge. Don’t take them to heart and keep pushing forward.”

Throughout the day, students had the opportunity to partake in campus tours. Groups of students were able to see the Trades buildings and the different programs and resources that are available in Trades, while other groups explored other buildings on campus to see what else is available.

The students were treated to career workshops that were geared towards helping them find careers suited to their interests. A lunch was provided for the students and then a continuation of the event included a talk from TRU Aboriginal Services Coordinator Joanne Brown encouraging students to “explore the avenues for academic success.”

A resource fair was set up, giving students an opportunity to see what is offered at TRU in terms of athletics, Open Learning, the library and much more. Students could talk to the people involved in these additional resources that are available on campus and get to know what they are all about.

“Our hope is that by transitioning students throughout the years their comfort level will be better and they will be more prepared,” said Cheryl Sebastian, district principal for Aboriginal Education in School District 73.

First-year students who already know about the various resources and are familiar with the campus are a step ahead of students who have not had an experience like this in high school. Vernie Clement, who is the Aboriginal Mentorship Coordinator at TRU said “the whole hope of the event is to inspire [students] and take out the mystery of” post-secondary.

For Bruce Fleury, a second-year student in the Human Services program and a volunteer, this is “an opportunity to succeed.” There is hope to see more events like this in the future.