Scholarship brings rural Métis student one step closer to running business
Your grandma’s kitchen isn’t a typical place to hold an interview. But when a snowstorm stopped Riley Chartrand from attending the final selection round for the BMO Financial Group Indigenous Leader of Tomorrow Scholarships, that’s exactly where he found himself.
“I had to do my final interview over Skype,” he laughs. “It’s kind of intimidating when you’re looking at six delegates from the University and I’m trying to keep my composure sitting in a suit at the kitchen table.”
The location obviously worked for Chartrand, who was named one of this year’s recipients and started classes at the Asper School of Business in September.
We caught up with him at Migizii Agamik – Bald Eagle Lodge where he was attending the formal announcement of BMO Financial Group’s gift.
How did you feel when you heard you’d been selected for a BMO Financial Group Indigenous Leader of Tomorrow Scholarship?
I was so nervous about making a good impression over a computer screen– but the next day I learned that I was one of the chosen three recipients, and I was speechless. I could not believe my hard work had finally paid off. I honestly had no words, I was overwhelmed with emotion, and I still am.
What was it like moving to Winnipeg?
I come from a small community of 650 people, and when I got here on my first day my class had a third of that. There were 250 people in my first class! It was such a culture shock, but I was so thankful for this scholarship because before I even stepped into university I was able to build a network of friends and the staff here which helped make my transition much easier. Moving from such a small community that support has really touched me. To come from there, and make my family and community proud at such a high level is the best feeling in the world.
What does being recognized as an Indigenous Leader of Tomorrow mean to you?
To receive this kind of my support for my studies goes far beyond the financial boost it gives. To me it means that there are people that believe in me and my dream, and believed in me long before I even stepped foot on campus. I am trying to be a positive role model for other Métis youth from small rural communities across Manitoba, and this award helps tremendously. Being recognized as an Indigenous Leader of Tomorrow means that I have support behind me to push me towards those goals.
Where will you go from here?
Well, the area of study I am most interested in is business. I’m not going to lie and say I’ve got it all figured out yet—who does? But right now I have a short-term goal. I’m in the process with my dad of going into partnership to buy a business back home. From a very young age I spent countless hours at my uncle’s gas bar. In recent years we have run into problems with the underground storage tanks, so I spent this past summer in meetings to secure funds for upgrades to the store. The dream to keep this store open and in our family long after my uncle retires, so that’s my first stage in my business career.
Any final words for BMO Financial Group?
I don’t even know what to say because I’m still overwhelmed. I just want to say thank you to BMO, and to the university for believing in me, for believing in us [the Indigenous Leader of Tomorrow recipients]. It’s a huge honour and this has really empowered me to try and make an impact on a larger stage.
The BMO Financial Group Indigenous Leader of Tomorrow Scholarships were established to provide support the outstanding students recognized as Indigenous Leaders of Tomorrow by the U of M. Indigenous Achievement and Outstanding Student Experience are pillars of the university’s Front and Centre fundraising campaign. By collaborating with Indigenous communities and stakeholders, the University of Manitoba is striving to be a welcoming place that translates into success for Indigenous students and their families.