A celebration of learning

March 10, 2020
Author: Jenn McGarrigle

Helping youth see the value in a university education

Every year in February, Vancouver Island University’s ‘su’luqw’a’ Community Cousins Aboriginal student mentors organize a Celebration of Learning event, which brings together students, community members and Elders to share their experiences and talk about what led them to attend university. The event celebrates the resilience of Indigenous students and familiarizes potential students with the campus.

This year, students from Tsawalk Learning Centre, a community-based program for students in Grades 8-12 run by the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre, came to hear the stories and have lunch at Shq’apthut. VIU students Sheldon Scow, Chyanne Trenholm, Evangeline Clifton and James Beardy shared their stories with students, as did Elder-in-Residence Gary Manson. Here’s what they hope students took away from the day.

Sheldon Scow, 4th year Indigenous/Xwulmuxw Studies student

Dene Nation and Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations

“Dream big and believe in yourself. Indigenous people weren’t really taught to dream when we were young. I never thought I’d be able to do half the things I’ve been able to do, and now I’m graduating in a few weeks. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”


Chyanne Trenholm, 4th year Bachelor of Tourism Management student

Homalco First Nation

“You’re not alone. There’s always someone to talk to, especially in our Community Cousins program. I felt lost on campus my first two years as I searched for a place to belong and found support within the cousins. This support helped build my confidence in every aspect of my life, in particular with finding out who I am as an Indigenous woman. The cousins are a family on campus and available to be there for you if you need someone to talk to.”


Evangeline Clifton, 4th year Bachelor of Tourism Management student

Heiltsuk Nation

“Never give up. Times get hard, but there’s always a support system out there to help you keep going. Most importantly – please consider returning to school. Education is important and key to providing opportunities in creating a better future that you didn’t know was possible.” 


James Beardy, Aboriginal University Bridging Program

Fox Lake Cree Nation

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and when you do, truly LISTEN. Sometimes people may seem like they are only talking to get something off their chest, but LISTEN. You could miss the fact another person is trying to reach out.”


Gary Manson, Elder-in-Residence

Snuneymuxw First Nation

“This day is all about semelshun – clearing the path, working together. Having the students here sharing their path encourages the younger ones coming from the villages to be less afraid to come here. They see we have Elders here and a support system.”

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