Grades 8-11 Aboriginal students excelled in math and English during SFU's first math and English summer camp for Aboriginal students.


Summer camp primes Aboriginal students for academic success

August 29, 2014

By Carol Thorbes

Simon Fraser University adjunct professor Veselin Jungic predicts that 25 Aboriginal students coached in math and English at SFU this summer will be ahead of their peers when public school resumes.

That’s because the Grade 8 to 11 students successfully completed a month of intense academic training and introduction to higher education in SFU’s first math and English summer camp for Aboriginal students.

Their accomplishment is significant says Jungic, associate chair of SFU’s math department, because historically Aboriginal students are far less successful than their non-Aboriginal peers in passing the Mathematics 12 provincial exam.

“Success in math and English are key requirements for entry into any post-secondary program or institution,” says Jungic, a key architect of SFU’s Math Catcher Outreach program to help young Aboriginal children learn math.

“With no math skills, so many opportunities are closed, from customer service jobs to business management and from trades to the engineering careers.”

Students’ end-of-camp presentations convinced Jungic that their academic confidence had soared and that they realize scholarship is important to them personally, and achievable in an Aboriginal community.

“A surprising outcome for me was this realization that by improving the mathematical and language skills we were able to actually build a community of young Aboriginal scholars,” says Jungic.

He says the camp’s cohort model, which kept all participants together for all activities, helped achieve a sense of community and camaraderie that is also a major benefit.

“ I have no doubt that our model created  some life-long friendships,” he says.

Here are some of the students’ comments on the program’s impact:

  • "The program taught me that I had the ability to do math the entire time—I just didn't believe that I had that much potential."
  • "I feel empowered and inspired and I plan on continuing to write even after the program ends."
  • "I have come to realize that I'm capable of doing anything with my life if I just believe in myself.”

"The majority of the camp participants will be at the SFU IRMACS Centre on Wed., Oct. 25, 2014, to join other high school students from across B.C. for the 5th Annual Aboriginal Students in Math and Science Workshop."

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