SFU debuts Aboriginal Preview Day for local high school students

March 15, 2016

On March 9, Aboriginal students in Grades nine to 12 visited SFU’s first Aboriginal Preview Day.

During the one-day event, students from 22 schools toured the Burnaby campus, met Aboriginal faculty and staff and learned about the diverse program offerings and support available at the University.

Activities also included an Indigenous Jeopardy trivia game, a Zumba class, information booths with Aboriginal members of staff and SFU faculties, and a keynote presentation by Amy Parent, an education professor who studies Indigenous students transitioning from high school to university.

Parent says Indigenous youth succeed when they are aware they can access mentors, support workers and figures of inspiration. Her research found that bringing Aboriginal high school students to a university helped show them there are academic opportunities outside of high school environments, where many feel isolated or face racism and bullying.

According to Parent, the goal is to let Aboriginal learners know it is okay to make mistakes and to view their educational success ‘wholistically.’

“This means that in order to be successful in university, students need to balance their physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual selves,” Parent says.

“It’s important to encourage youth to be open to new learning opportunities beyond high school and to seek out mentors and people that inspire them. I wouldn’t be an education professor today were it not for being open to trying new experiences and seeking support from a community of mentors that inspired and encourage me.”

Post-secondary degree completion is significantly lower among Aboriginal Canadians compared with non-Aboriginal people. Only eight per cent of Canada’s Aboriginal population aged 25 to 64 had a post-secondary degree according to the 2006 census. By contrast, 23 per cent of non-Aboriginal people in Canada had completed a degree.

“Our aim with the event was to showcase Simon Fraser University as a possible place for higher learning," says Jennie Blankinship, SFU’s Indigenous recruitment coordinator.

"This will in turn encourage Aboriginal students to choose upper level courses early in preparation for post-secondary.”

Blankinship emphasizes SFU has Indigenous staff and teams dedicated to Indigenous recruitment and retention. The Indigenous Student Centre offers resource services, academic advisors, financial support, Co-operative learning, elders and cultural activities to support students in their academic studies at SFU.

Says Blankinship, “We are ready to help and we are trying to make SFU a home away from home for our students.”