It's another proud moment for Moosonee and Kirkland Lake as two students have won a prestigious scholarship.
When the 20 RBC Future Launch Indigenous Youth Scholarship recipients were announced on June 15, Sparrow Couchie, 17, from Moosonee and Mayhève Clara Rondeau from Kirkland Lake were among them. The 20 recipients were selected from a pool of close to 800 people.
The scholarship is worth up to $10,000 per year and for up to four years.
Sparrow Couchie grew up in North Bay and then in Moosonee.
“I was ecstatic and shocked that I immediately stepped out of the class to Facetime my parents," said Couchie, who is Métis.
A very happy and proud Couchie also felt honoured and grateful for winning this. She is preparing to attend Business Administration Studies at Laurentian University in Sudbury this fall.
"It was an emotional moment for my family and me because it was a huge financial relief," said Couchie.
RBC has been providing this scholarship since 1992 and has awarded more than $1.9 million so far to 218 Indigenous students like Couchie. The award is designed for students who demonstrate strong academic performance and community involvement. It also helps reduce barriers to post-secondary education and training for First Nations, Inuit, and Mètis students across Canada.
Thinking of the other aspirants in her community, Couchie feels that "people have so much potential that they don’t realize is within themselves.” However, she said a taped-up poster quote, "Whether you think you can or you can't, you are right," from her math teacher's classroom inspired her enormously to work towards her goal.
Kirkland Lake’s Mayhève Clara Rondeau is another local scholarship recipient. She is a Moose Cree First Nation member and will be attending law school at the University of Victoria this fall.
Rondeau was recently selected for an internship at the Senate of Canada this summer. She has competed at the Ontario Aboriginal Games (2016) and North American Indigenous Games (2017) and will coach at the 2023 North American Indigenous Games.
Rondeau graduated with a degree in Human Kinetics this fall and is a former member of the varsity swim team of the University of Ottawa.
"I'm passionate about mentoring incoming and returning Indigenous students, and helping build community," said Rondeau in her submission.
This ambitious student also wants to strengthen her community.
"One of my goals is to bring my knowledge from law school to Treaty 9 (the James Bay treaty) and learn how to strengthen our governance systems," she said.
These youth’s success stories could inspire many more students who are facing hurdles to completing their studies. According to the Indigenous Services Canada Quality Education report, 44 per cent of Indigenous youth aged 18-24 have completed high school, compared to 88 per cent for other candidates.
Wanda Wuttunee, editor-in-chief of Journal of Aboriginal Economic Development, is on the steering committee for the award.
“Indigenous young people are sometimes faced with roadblocks to success in the education system, so having a program that alleviates financial stress, champions their accomplishments and supports well-being is so important,” Wuttunee said in a news release.
Despite such success stories, many Indigenous students still struggle to continue their studies because of their poor financial status. But instead of giving up on your dreams, Couchie asks them to "make a plan for yourself, make sure that it is what you truly want in life, and you are always working towards something.”
Jinsh Rayaroth, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com