This summer, 20 First Nations students in grades 10 and 11 attended the ‘Emerging Aboriginal Scholars’ summer camp jointly run by the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) and the UBC First Nations House of Learning (FNHL). The camp ran for five weeks from July to August, 2011.
As part of the camp, these students took English and Math classes each morning and three afternoons per week they participated in an internship program which placed each student with university or affiliated faculty and staff. Other afternoons were spent speaking to elders and meeting with members of the Aboriginal community who are successfully working in a variety of fields.
The goal of these camps is to provide a strong academic background, foster a sense of pride in the Aboriginal culture and to establish a strong sense of community.
The internship aspect of the camp gave the students real life and hands on experience in an area of their interest in a low pressure, high achieving environment.
Summer camp organizer and PIMS BC Education Coordinator Melania Alvarez comments on the camp’s objectives; “We want to give the kids the chance to see what happens at UBC and let them see that opportunities do exist for them. We want them to be empowered and also get them thinking about their future.”
Take for example grade 11 student, Frankie, who got experience using a spectrometer in the lab of Professor Ed Grant in UBC’s Department of Chemistry. Frankie’s role was be to test the viability of using this piece of equipment to determine the composition of aerosols in the atmosphere as part of a larger study in which Professor Grant is involved.
Professor Grant comments on his motivations to become involved in this program, “As we grow up, we all must make decisions pointing our lives in directions that we don’t yet know much about. It helps anyone in this position to have a preview. First-hand knowledge of what might lay ahead, academically and career-wise, can help young people make good decisions. When we expand the pool of people who are in a position to gain this knowledge, the opportunity exists to raise the level of learning in general, and this benefits all of society. I am very glad to be able to contribute in this small way to such an effort.”
This summer camp is one of many math education programs that PIMS and FNHL run to benefit First Nations students, these programs include teacher training, mentorships, after-school programs, scholarships and math outreach events in rural parts of mainland BC such as Kamloops, Port Alberni and Lytton.
For many Aboriginal students, the idea of going to university can be daunting, however the hope is that this combination of community support, positive experiences and encouragement will change this view and make the task of educating themselves a top priority.
For more information, please visit the program’s website.
Updated: April 3, 2014, 2:15 PM