Each student’s experience of post-secondary is unique, but there is one vital tool that everyone needs to navigate the education system and truly thrive: support.
For Selkirk College Nursing Program student Melissa Markin, one of this year’s recipients of the Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) Bird Construction/Paul and Gerri Charrette Bursary, that pivotal helping hand was extended when she met Leah Lychowyd, Selkirk College’s counsellor for Indigenous students.
Markin is Métis on her father’s side, but due to her family’s history of assimilation—her paternal grandmother was adopted into a non-Indigenous family—she grew up detached from her Métis heritage. That changed when she came to Selkirk College and was encouraged to connect with Indigenous Services for some practical help with her schedule.
“Selkirk College has really been my number-one asset to reconnecting with my culture,” says Markin, who was nominated by Selkirk College and the Indigenous Services department for the bursary, which supports Indigenous students facing barriers to completing post-secondary education.“Leah’s really been there for me. When I found out that Leah and the team at Indigenous Services thought I could get a national bursary, I was so honoured. Leah has helped me in so many ways since I came to Selkirk College.”
Lychowyd is currently supporting Markin through the process of obtaining her Métis citizenship, something that her family lost when her grandmother was separated from her culture. Once Markin has her documentation, she will be able to help her siblings get theirs and, eventually, proof of ancestry will be passed down her family’s lineage.
Support for All Self-Identifying Indigenous Students
Many students see a lack of documentation as a barrier to connecting with Indigenous Services, but Lychowyd emphasizes that the department is there to support all current and prospective students who self-identify as Indigenous. The department offers personal and career counselling, academic counselling, cultural supports, and help accessing funding opportunities and housing.
Providing guidance for students navigating life in the post-secondary system is rewarding for Lychowyd, who joined Selkirk College in 2016.
“I have a lot of gratitude for the position I’m in. I had an auntie who helped me when I was 18, and I’m thankful to now be able to give back,” she says.
Through her role at the college and the strong relationships she’s built with the Métis Nation British Columbia and the Okanagan Training and Development Council, she has been able to connect students with an array of opportunities—within Selkirk College, provincially and nationally, like the CICan bursary, which is awarded to four students throughout Canada.
For Markin, receiving the bursary means that she can focus on her studies with less financial pressure. Her goal is to complete the Nursing Program and then move to Yellowknife to work with rural Indigenous communities. In the meantime, she is preparing for an upcoming practicum at a long-term care home and doing a work study at the Gathering Place at Selkirk College, where she welcomes people into the community and helps connect students with services.
It is Markin’s commitment to hard work and drive to give back that made her an ideal candidate for the bursary.
“She exemplifies a quality of reciprocity,which is a key Indigenous value,” says Lychowyd.
May 9 to 15 is National Nursing Week in Canada, an opportunity to shine a light on the courage and commitment that are vital to the nation’s healthcare system.
Learn more about Indigenous Services at Selkirk College at: https://selkirk.ca/indigenous