Jessica Swain smiles proudly when she talks about helping parents give birth to and nurture a healthy, happy baby, starting their family in a way that’s meaningful to them.
Swain, who is in the first class of Mount Royal University’s newly minted Bachelor of Midwifery, says her education up until this year has been slow-going.
She started her education at Mount Royal in 2008 and has been toiling toward her degree ever since.
She says working to pay off her education has definitely impacted her grades and her ability to carry a full course load.
This year has been a revelation though.
Not only was she one of only 13 students accepted into the Midwifery program, she was also one of five students to receive a $3,500 bursary last week as Mount Royal announced a new $500,000 endowment set up by the Metis Nation of Alberta (through the Metis Education Fund) and Mount Royal University Foundation to help more students of Metis heritage complete their post-secondary education.
“I’ve really found my passion,” said Swain of her experience in the Midwifery degree program.
“I love being here. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now but I didn’t actually get any government funding this year so this couldn’t come at a better time for me.”
After the announcement was made in the second floor lobby outside the Iniskim Centre, which supports Aboriginal students, Swain stepped behind the podium to speak on behalf of herself and her fellow recipients when she began to tear up.
It was evidently a powerful day for Mount Royal, the Alberta Metis Education Foundation and for the students who were the first recipients of this new yearly endowment.
Money well placed
Provost and Vice-President Academic, Robin Fisher, who spoke during the announcement ceremony said, “it is vital that Mount Royal University respond to the educational needs of the Aboriginal communities for whom post secondary education is the key to unlock the door to a better future.”
Fisher points out that the Aboriginal community in Alberta and across Canada has struggled to take advantage of the opportunities a post secondary education might open to them. Fisher said that endowments like this and programs and centres such as Mount Royal’s Iniskim Centre will go a long way towards changing that outcome for the better.
“The work of meeting the educational needs of Aboriginal students in Canada is huge and daunting so there is plenty of scope for all Universities to be involved. Mount Royal is a leader but, fortunately, not alone in this work.”
The Associate Director, Industry Relations, Communications and Marketing with Rupertsland Institute (a Metis Centre of Excellence), Aaron Barner was on hand to represent the Metis Nation of Alberta at the announcement event.
“These type of endowments are investments in our community,” said Barner. “We look at the return on that investment as improving the lifestyle in the educational attainment level of Metis people.”
“One of the biggest obstacles for Metis people wishing to enter post secondary and being able to stay in post secondary is the financial challenge. We’ve found that even if Metis people can come up with enough money to get started on their education, many struggle to sustain that for the full duration of their degree.”
Swain, whose mother’s parents are of Manitoban Metis heritage, is aware of the challenges her fellow Metis students face and says it means a lot to her and her family that her ancestry is being honoured by helping her get her education.
“I strongly connect to their culture and beliefs,” says Swain.
“This is a really proud moment. My parents are really pleased with this. They aren’t able to contribute to financing my education so to get this help from my ancestry is really meaningful to my family.”
— Steven Noble, Dec. 8, 2011