Tarra Tipton

Creating a Network of Supports for Success

February 12, 2021

Tarra Tipton, a Bachelor of Social Work student, shares her story

Did you know that Vancouver Island University is one of four post-secondary institutions across Canada partnering on an educational initiative for Indigenous youth called EleV? This program, supported by the Mastercard Foundation and co-created with our Indigenous partners, aims to boost success by providing scholarships and wrap-around supports and removing barriers to accessing education. Indigenous Education Navigators, who follow students before, during and after their post-secondary journeys and connect students with supports and resources, are a key part of the program and one of the main reasons Tarra Tipton, a fourth-year Bachelor of Social Work student from Skidegate First Nation, is on track to graduate in April 2021. 

After graduating, she hopes to do a master’s degree in social work, which will open the door for a number of career paths she is considering, including becoming a university professor, Indigenous Education Navigator for future students, or a counsellor.


What are some of your proudest moments as a VIU student?

At the top of the list is supporting several of my friends who were considering post-secondary. Encouraging them to just apply or set up a time to learn more, then being recognized for being the nudge they needed to start achieving their goals was really heartwarming. My second proudest moment was completing my first year in the degree program after a 10-year break from school. Now I have a projected graduation date of April 2021 and have applied for graduate school.


How has working with your Indigenous Education Navigator helped you achieve your goals?

I absolutely loved working with my Indigenous Education Navigator, Sherry Mattice. She truly cares about each and every one of her students and will push you to achieve your full potential. Sherry was committed to my education every step of the way. If at any point I needed help, I knew I could reach out to her and she would often reach out and check in with me. Even when she could not help, she would find someone who could.


What inspires you to keep going when it gets tough?

Connecting with my peers in the BSW program or connecting with the Community Cousins and Elders-in-Residence. In gaining another student’s perspective, you truly realize that you are not in this on your own. Additionally, having the opportunity to hear and listen to the knowledge and experience our Elders have to share was crucial when student life became difficult. There will always be others who are going through exactly what you are going through or have their own journeys they can share with you. You may feel they are too busy to care, but you will be surprised at how helpful these networks are throughout your educational journey.


If you were to share one thing about university life with Indigenous youth, what would it be?

The Bachelor of Social Work is all done online, and on-campus university life is non-existent, but that does not stop me from feeling connected to resources, faculty and peers. Regardless of whether your education is in a face-to-face or an online environment, all the services are still at your fingertips. The most important tip I could share is to not be shy. As intimidating as putting yourself out there can be, VIU fosters a supportive environment, and faculty and staff are all there to help you succeed! All you need to do is reach out and you will be connected to the resources you need along your educational journey.


What unexpected gifts/positives have you experienced because of the pandemic?

The pandemic did not change my education, since my program was already online. The positive was that while the entire world around me was being forced to adapt to a new normal, my education was able to carry on as usual. My instructors were all very supportive because they were fully aware of external factors that could be filling our headspace in these troubling times.  VIU also adapted our practicums to ensure all students were still able to fulfill their graduation requirements on schedule. Overall, with everything that is and was going on in the world around us, VIU was the one constant and I am thankful for that.


Anything else?

To anyone out there considering an education, just reach out. If you are Indigenous, I highly recommend reaching out to an Education Navigator. If I had not reached out, I would not be where I am today and I would not be on the road to a new career!

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