Taking advantage of a brief lull in classes provided an opportunity for Aboriginal high school learners to improve their on-campus experience.
In previous years, Aboriginal Programs & Services (APS) provided individual tours for 20-80 students from respective school districts across the Okanagan Valley. However, a trend emerged from feedback generated from student surveys which provided a unique opportunity.
“Through the surveys, participants indicated that they wanted a true university classroom experience. This was difficult as classroom space is at a premium on campus,” said APS Acting Manager Jeannine Kuemmerle who booked 10 classrooms in the Arts building. “We were looking for an opportunity to get these high school students into classrooms and connect with faculty. The logical choice was to bring everyone together on November 12 when classes are suspended.
“We started the process last spring by meeting with school district staff to formulate a plan to bring all the school districts together for one day. The feedback we received from this format was overwhelmingly positive and we will look to build on this model for 2014,” she added.
Attending the event were more than 220 students from secondary schools including Princess Margaret, Similkameen, Pen High, OK Mission, George Elliott, Kelowna Senior, Mount Boucherie, Rutland Senior, W.L. Seaton, Osoyoos, Merritt, Kalamalka, Charles Bloom, Vernon and South Okanagan.
Prior to their arrival, high school Aboriginal support workers did some homework to determine each student’s area of interest. Upon their arrival on campus, students were given pieces of paper to determine which lectures or campus tour would best suit their needs. Volunteers and student staff used the colour coding to funnel students into their respective itineraries.
Students in Grades 9 and 10 took part in a one-hour campus tour, followed by presentations that prompted them to start planning ahead. These workshops, led by APS student staff and volunteers, were geared towards getting students thinking about what high school courses they will need to meet their program admissions requirements. Fine Arts student Ashleigh Green was one of the co-presenters for this workshop.
"The students were engaged with our presentation and willing to participate in discussion. It was encouraging to see that they had questions and were thinking about future careers,” said Green.
UBC Recruiter Jay Graham led the Grade 11 and 12 students through an admissions overview of opportunities at both Vancouver and Okanagan campuses. Students then took part in two classroom experiences led by Allison Hargreaves, assistant professor of North American Indigenous literatures, and Writing 009 instructor Kelly Mitton.
“Being in the classroom is one of the most energizing and rewarding parts of my job. I loved having the chance to engage with such a smart group of high school students, and I look forward to seeing many of them on campus and in my English classes in the years to come,” said Hargreaves.
In both workshops, students drew their own conclusions on the importance English 12 plays in their post secondary planning.
“We discussed that English is more than just grammar and punctuation. How it’s also about communication and learning how to express one’s voice. Students learned how strong communication skills can empower individuals to critique dominant norms in society and to challenge norms that oppress people by race, gender, class, and sexuality,” said Mitton. “The results of the group writing projects were inspiring. Over 20 groups of approximately five students per group wrote on various topics like how to be a successful high school student and how to plan a successful event.
“My experience was incredibly rewarding. It was wonderful to work with the peer mentors to introduce our future Aboriginal scholars to an inside perspective of university life,” she added.
Before students boarded their buses, they were required to fill out a survey on their university experience. An overwhelming theme emerged as students appreciated the classroom experience. When asked what areas could be improved upon, they indicated they would like an opportunity to experience science and health labs.
For filling out the surveys, students had their names entered into a draw for various door prizes. Jareth Leo of Charles Bloom Secondary in Lumby took home the top prize – an iPad mini.