Empowering Aboriginal students

A new program set to start at Okanagan College in September is being designed to give Aboriginal students support to 'empower' students to take a greater control of their education.

The Academy of Indigenous Scholars was developed by James Coble.

"We want to make sure all the aboriginal students that attend Okanagan College are as successful as they can be," says Coble of the program.

"It's about providing a holistic program of support to these students to make sure we get them to where they need to go."

Coble says the program is open to all self-declared indigenous students in their first year of university-level arts, science and business programs.

"It's about providing opportunities to engage with tutors, opportunities to engage with community resources, opportunities to engage in workshops and coordinating those services," says Coble.

"We've always offered aboriginal students support services at Okanagan College. The idea is to make the service we provide more proactive."

The one-year pilot program was made possible with a $40,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation, the largest community foundation in Canada.

The Academy of Indigenous Scholars is accepting 30 students from across the four Okanagan College campuses, 15 in Kelowna and five each from campuses in Penticton, Vernon and Salmon Arm.

Coble says they are in the process of marketing the program to prospective aboriginal students.

"We are asking them, is this something you would be interested in and, if so, we will essentially register you for the program.

As a result of their interest and their active registration into the program we are then able to connect with them and co-create this plan of action for them to help them get from becoming a prospective student to getting their degree, their certificate or whatever it is they are here to do."

Coble says the growth of the aboriginal student population at Okanagan College over the past seven years makes this the perfect time to offer the program.

He says since 2007, the aboriginal student population at the college has increased from about 450 to more than 1,500 - the fastest rate of any post-secondary institution in the province.



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