West Kelowna: Two First Nations students cash in on grants

Meagan Carrier and Starleigh Grass were two of 117 B.C. Aboriginal students to receive a B.C. Aboriginal Student Award.

The tedious process of applying for bursaries and scholarships has paid off for two West Kelowna students attending UBCO.

Meagan Carrier and Starleigh Grass were two of 117 B.C. aboriginal students to receive a B.C. Aboriginal Student Award.

The winning students will receive awards of $1,000 to $3,500 annually to help with their post-secondary education fees.

When Carrier found out that she was a recipient of the award, she was “blown away.”

“I was basically searching online for things and I happened to stumble upon (the award). It was due the next day, so I power-wrote and fast-tracked it to Victoria,” said Carrier, who is working towards a science degree.

Grass put a lot of effort into finding additional funding to help her cope with post-secondary fees.

“As soon as I found out that I was accepted into graduate studies, I started looking for grants that I was eligible for and putting packages together,” said Grass, who is completing a master of arts and education degree.

“You have to be really organized. You have to have a calendar and a schedule and make sure that you have all of your documents ready to go in time.”

Both Carrier’s last-minute effort and Grass’ calculated approach paid off for the women.

The B.C. Aboriginal Student Award is funded from the returns on a $10 million endowment fund, established by the Province in 2007 as part of its strategy to improve Aboriginal achievement and access to education.

“Through the Irving K. Barber B.C. Scholarship Society, we are supporting aboriginal learners to take post-secondary education and training so they’re ready to fill the jobs of tomorrow, which is an important part of the B.C. Jobs Plan,” said Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of Advanced Education.

The Irving K. Barber B.C. Scholarship Society works with the Victoria Foundation to provide scholarships to students attending post-secondary institutions throughout the province and internationally.

To date, the society has awarded more than $3.8 million from its six scholarship programs.

“Our society board has adopted steps to ensure a stable level of awards each year, regardless of market conditions,” said Hugh Gordon, society chairman.

“It’s part of our commitment to ensuring access to education for deserving students from throughout the province.”

Grass said that awards like this are important to helping aboriginal students “close the gap.”

“I think when you look at the statistics regarding aboriginal post-secondary attainment in Canada, it’s pretty obvious that drastic measures are needed to help support students in order to close the gap,” said Grass.

In total, six winners of the award attend UBC’s Okanagan campus.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

Kelowna Capital News