l-r: Caleb Simpson and Anika Robertson say the camp exceeded their expectations.

learning

Summer camp prepares Aboriginal high school students for university

August 05, 2015
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By Allen Tung

School was out for the summer in June, but not for 26 students who participated in a month-long SFU Academic Summer Camp for Aboriginal Students from July 2 to 31.

The camp, now in its second year, gave students a tantalizing glimpse of university life while they practiced their math and English skills.

But it wasn’t all academics. They also built Lego Mindstorm robots, played basketball and Quidditch, and did some stargazing at the Trottier Observatory.

The camp’s objective is to prepare Aboriginal students for success in university by helping them develop a solid foundation in math and English. The experience should also help them realize that attending university is a viable option.

“Math and English are the two main prerequisites for them to succeed in post-secondary education,” says Veselin Jungic, the camp’s organizer, and a lecturer in SFU’s Department of Mathematics.

“That’s why we have math and English classes every day throughout the camp.”

Anika Robertson and Caleb Simpson, both 15 years old and entering Grade 10, say the camp exceeded their expectations and affirmed their interest in attending university.

“I want to try and get a scholarship, but I definitely think I might try getting into SFU—if I can,” says Robertson, who is from the Ojibwe Nation.

Simpson, who is Mohawk, adds, “There are a lot of awesome people that I met, made a lot of friends, [and] math was a lot of fun.”

At the camp’s closing ceremonies on July 31, it was clear from the hooting and hollering that these students had formed lifelong friendships.

“I think the friendship and the bonds that they built among themselves is the biggest highlight,” says Jungic. “Just a month ago, they were a bunch of strangers from all over the Lower Mainland.”

At SFU, the majority of Aboriginal undergraduate students are in the arts and social sciences. Jungic says the camp’s long-term goal is to change this trend.

“We want to enable, and encourage, Aboriginal learners to enrol in programs that lead to careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics," he says.

The camp is organized and supported by the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences (PICS), SFU’s Faculty of Science, SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples, IRMACS Centre, and SFU’s Department of Mathematics. The NSERC PromoScience Program provides partial financial support for the camp.

About 50 students, faculty and staff from various SFU academic units contributed to the camp’s success, offering their time and knowledge as volunteers, presenters or workshop moderators.