Creating opportunity

Christie-Dawn Ladouceur is used to helping people resolve challenges – she works as an employment counsellor – but receiving the inaugural Métis Scholar Graduate Studies scholarship helped her solve a very significant challenge of her own: how to fund the balance of her master's degree studies.

On Wednesday, Jan. 25, officials from the University of Lethbridge welcomed members of the Métis Nation of Alberta to campus to jointly announce the creation of a scholarship fund for Métis undergraduate and graduate students, including Ladouceur, who is completing her master's degree in counselling psychology through the U of L's Faculty of Education and Campus Alberta.

The $500,000 gift will be endowed in perpetuity and will, through matching funds, support the creation of a $1 million endowment fund. This will help ensure more students of Métis heritage complete their post-secondary education.

Christie-Dawn Ladouceur
Christie-Dawn Ladouceur (left) and Audrey Poitras, president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, celebrate the creation of a scholarship fund to support graduate and undergraduate Métis students at the University of Lethbridge.

Originally from the Lac la Biche area in northern Alberta, Ladouceur is now based in Edmonton, and works as a project manager for a not-for-profit Aboriginal organization where she develops employment and education training programs for youth to improve their career and employment prospects.

"I have three more semesters to complete, and this award will ensure that I can focus on my studies and finish my research," says Ladouceur, moved to tears during her comments at the launch event.

Ladouceur is producing a manual that other counsellors can use to properly identify the challenges faced by urban aboriginal youth, and the gaps and barriers in the various counselling models used to support them.

"I am focusing on the differences that are often overlooked by counsellors if they do not accurately understand the culture of a First Nations, Métis or Inuit student. My hope is that counsellors will be able to better identify and assist young people with their needs, and recognize that the different cultures require different approaches."

Ladouceur says that her master's degree will enable her to move forward within a profession she loves, and deal more directly with young people.

There is $25,000 in scholarship funding available this year – six $2,500 awards to undergraduate students and $10,000 awarded to graduate student Ladouceur.

"The Métis Nation of Alberta, through the Métis Education Foundation, has set up nine endowment funds that total more than $13.3 million," says Audrey Poitras, the president of the Métis Nation of Alberta. "These are more than gifts or donations. These endowments are investments in Métis students."

"Education is a necessary tool for Métis people to prosper and grow, and the U of L is committed to ensuring Métis students will have the financial means and the opportunities to achieve success in their education and their lives," says U of L President, Dr. Mike Mahon. "There are approximately 100 Métis students currently enrolled at the U of L. We would like to see this number grow as we continue to increase access and support programs. This gift from the Métis Nation of Alberta is a significant step in that direction."

The inaugural Métis Scholar undergraduate recipients are:

Jared Anderson, (Raymond, Alta.) enrolled in a Bachelor of Science program, Aaron Hamonic, (Lethbridge, Alta.) enrolled in a Bachelor of Health Sciences program, Charlene Lambert, (Lethbridge, Alta.) enrolled in a Pre-Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education program, Jolan Naismith, (Leduc, Alta.) enrolled in a Bachelor of Management program, Nicole Robinson, (Lethbridge, Alta.) enrolled in a Bachelor of Nursing program (NESA), Amy Smith, (The Pas, Man.) enrolled in a combined Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education program.

This story first appeared in the February 2012 edition of The Legend. To view the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.