Amazon donates $10,000 to support Indigenous students’ technology needs
By Geoff Gilliard
The shift to online learning driven by the COVID-19 pandemic has meant challenges for some students facing the costs of equipping themselves with the necessary technology. To help close the gap, Amazon Canada has donated $10,000 towards the purchase of equipment, such as laptop computers and graphics tablets, for several students in Simon Fraser University’s Indigenous University Preparation Program (IUPP).
The program welcomes First Nations, Métis and Inuit students as they explore the university with Elders, mentors, tutors and instructors, and prepares them for undergraduate studies by offering two foundations courses and five first-year academic credit courses that integrate humanities and social sciences with Indigenous knowledge and perspectives. After successfully completing the IUPP students are admitted to SFU with credits towards their undergraduate degrees.
Amazon’s contribution will help ensure that students have access to this life-changing program during these unprecedented times.
“Technology opens a world of possibilities, and access to essential tools like computers should not stand in the way of a student’s ability to benefit from a program like IUPP,” said Jesse Dougherty, Amazon Canada VP.
Candara Bruyere, who dropped out of school in Grade 8, graduated from the IUPP last year as a mature student and has since completed two semesters towards her Bachelor of Arts degree. Bruyere is eyeing a career in social work or possibly further studies in Indigenous law.
“When I first looked at the course schedule and syllabus I was really overwhelmed,” Bruyere recalls. “I honestly didn’t believe I was going to be able to complete the program. But I made friends through the IUPP. We were all in similar positions so it was a nice supportive network to help me succeed in the program. I never felt like I was alone.”
Bruyere appreciated the support of the IUPP instructors who became friends with the students as they made the transition to university. The program’s Indigenous focus was also a good fit. “We spoke about things coming from a new way of thinking around Indigenous issues, which it should have always been.”
Enrolment has increased exponentially since the program started in January 2018. This year, the program was overwhelmed by the number of applications received not only from Metro Vancouver but also from across B.C. and other western provinces.
The program’s associate director Mar-y-Paz Rivera says when the pandemic led SFU to move its operations and classes online, there was an urgent need for laptops for some IUPP students who were unable to afford them to complete their work remotely. “It’s essential that Indigenous learners have support and access to the technology that they need to succeed and thrive in their post-secondary journey,” she says. “Amazon’s donation will help our students, and facilitate our innovative virtual teaching and learning methods by providing affordable technology. These methods will also open new pathways for Indigenous students who might want to start their post-secondary journey in their home communities and eventually continue their studies at any of SFU campuses.”
In its current format, the IUPP was introduced at SFU in 2018, guided by the Calls to Action of the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada reports.