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Mom with Indigenous graduate wearing graduation stole and holding certificate

Ashley Monture celebrates her MD with her mom, Dr. Marlyn Cook.

Access Program Graduation Celebration 2023-2024

An evening for grads and the people who supported them

May 17, 2024 — 

The Access Program provides holistic support to students on their academic journey, and when they achieve their goal, they are honoured at the Access Program Graduation Celebration. It’s always a special evening, in addition to convocation.

On May 16, the Access Program honoured its latest group of graduates. These 19 students from various Indigenous communities and Winnipeg earned degrees in Arts, Education, Kinesiology, Science, Health Science, Environmental Studies, Respiratory Therapy, Social Work, and Medicine.

Ashley Monture – MD

Ashley Monture always wanted to be a doctor, just like both of her parents. As a young girl, she would go with her mom to the nursing station in the northern communities where she worked.

“I would always try to follow her and help with patients,” says the Mohawk and Cree Access program grad who is now joining her parents’ profession with her own MD.

Monture started her university studies at McMaster but returned to Winnipeg and UM with her mother’s encouragement. She also joined the Access Program.

“It was really helpful,” she says. “After my father passed away, I appreciated the personal counselling. The academic advisors helped me to pick courses, guiding me in my options.”

With the Northern Remote Family Residency, Monture will start her residency in July.

“It still feels very surreal. It is very special. It took a long time, but it will be really nice to give back to the community. I always enjoyed my time when I lived in the North. It’s so peaceful. I had to leave to go to high school, but it was always my goal to go back to a Northern community.”

Her mom attended the Graduation Pow Wow with her and will also attend her convocation with pride. While Monture missed her Access Graduation dinner, she fondly remembers the one she attended to celebrate her undergraduate degree. “It is a nice way to celebrate and see everyone who supported you along the way.”

University can be intimidating and overwhelming at first, but Access helps students to navigate and adjust, she says. “They offer really good support and a great sense of community.”

Man in black with a hat and sunglasses outside

Harrison Mason plans to build energy efficient houses using local resources.

Harrison Mason- Bachelor of Environmental Studies

Harrison Mason will return to Winnipeg for June convocation, to celebrate earning his Bachelor of Environmental Studies with a focus on Sustainable Building. The 39-year-old married father of four didn’t attend the Access Program dinner because the cost of travel to and from St. Theresa Point is prohibitive. But, he says, “Graduating is awesome. With my background, I didn’t think I would make it. I had a lot of doubt. There was my age, and my family. I thought many times about quitting. But people supported me. It took a while, but I did it.”

Just a few years ago, Mason was just getting by working construction in Winnipeg when he realized he needed to do something to earn more for his family and to inspire his children. His sister encouraged the Anisininew from St. Theresa Point to follow her to UM.

“I learned so many things. It was scary. I didn’t think I was smart enough. I wondered what I had got myself into. I thought I knew math and writing essays, but it was hard,” he says.

Mason started in Engineering but transferred to the Access Program to find his way. “When I needed help, they were there. They are one of the big parts of why I graduated. When I started paying attention, talking to the right people, they helped, and I realized I could do it.”

He discovered Environmental Studies and Sustainable Building. “I’m a carpenter and I want to help the environment. This is what I want to do,” he says. “There is so much we can do. I want to adapt to the local environment, build a house where the house is healthy as well. I believe it will take time.”

With his degree behind him, Mason is learning how to build log houses with a Saskatchewan training program in July and then he plans to build his own home as a prototype. “It will be a log cabin. My house will be energy efficient and use local resources.”

His construction process will also focus on waste minimization. “Why waste when I can reuse materials in what I am doing? I am renovating my mom’s home right now, using everything again. It’s going well.”

The Access Program taught Mason it is okay to go through hardship. “Just don’t give up. Work hard. They will provide tutors. You will make it. Just don’t give up. Push through. It will come.”

Learn more about the Access Program

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