Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Douglas grad pens Aboriginal survival guide

Amy Parent wants First Nations culture and knowledge to be a big part of daughter Willow's education.
By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

Amy Parent knows firsthand the challenges around attending a post-secondary institution for the first time, especially for Aboriginal students. So when the Douglas student and member of the Nisga’a First Nation transferred to SFU, she wrote a guide to help other Aboriginal students in their transition to college or university.

Heart, Mind, Body and Spirit Connected: An Aboriginal Survival Guide to Post-Secondary offers First Nations students advice on everything from choosing the right school, to securing scholarships, to nutrition, to the importance of seeking out elders and mentors.

“Definitely one of the things that helped me was always looking to people who were older than me for answers,” Amy remembers. “And I would ask questions of people I saw who were really successful in some way.”

Now at UBC, Amy is working toward a PhD in education, with a specialization in Indigenous education. Her dissertation will explore historical and current Aboriginal high-school-to-university transition programs in order to determine how they can increase Aboriginal students’ success at Canadian colleges and universities.

“I want Aboriginal students to have smooth transitions, and I want them to see themselves reflected in post-secondary institutions.”

Amy’s also a new mom. Daughter Willow is still a baby, but Amy is already thinking about her education. She’d like to see more Indigenous knowledge infused into the curriculum, and has been working with UBC faculty and other graduate students to redesign teacher education programs to educate teachers about First Nations peoples, culture and knowledge.

“I want Willow to go to a school where she doesn’t ever feel that a piece of her isn’t being met within the curriculum. And that if there are questions she wants to ask, that there will be somebody there who, even if they don’t know those answers, will work with her to find them out.”

Are you a First Nations student thinking of attending Douglas? Check out the College's Aboriginal Student Services page.