Connecting culture and community
Qualico Bridge to Success program now accepting applications
It’s the word Métis student Deanna Garand uses to describe the Qualico Bridge to Success (QBTS) program at the University of Manitoba.
“The community within QBTS lifts you while all moving forward and upward as an Indigenous community,” Garand explains. “They assist you in reaching your goals academically, personally and spiritually.”
Developed by the Indigenous Student Centre, QBTS provides culturally based resources to support First Nations, Métis and Inuit students as they begin their post-secondary journeys at UM, including pre-orientation programming, academic learning support and advising.
For Garand, who felt “like a lost soul” upon enrolling in university, that support was critical in helping her build her confidence, find a supportive community and excel academically in her first year.
“The academic advising has been a necessity for me as I navigate my first year after being out of the education system for so many [years],” she says of QBTS’s offerings, which adopted a virtual format for 2020-2021 due to the pandemic. “QBTS checked off far more boxes for me than I initially thought I was looking for.”
Similarly, Shayla Fosseneuve, an Oji-Cree student from Cross Lake, Man., recommends the program to new Indigenous students to help them find success academically – and as individuals.
“It has helped me tremendously with my studies, in multiple ways,” she says. “I now realize the importance of taking care of yourself by considering the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of your reality. I noticed balancing these four aspects improves your quality of life, which, in turn, improves academic performance.”
Garand echoes the transformative nature of the program. “QBTS has entirely reshaped not only my first year, but also my person. It has gifted me a refined and much deeper spiritual understanding through the support of on-campus Elders, primarily.”
In addition to the resources offered through the program, QBTS helps build a sense of community for new students.
“The QBTS program has given me a sense of community and belonging, which I feel is necessary in the first year of university. Without [the supports] provided by the program, moving through the first year may be challenging,” says Fosseneuve, who hopes to eventually major in biology.
“The community of peers, with a thread of commonalities moving through their first year too, has lifted so much weight off the stressors,” adds Garand. “There is always something to learn, and someone behind and beside you as a member of the QBTS program – whether it is one of the incredible advisors or a newfound friend.”
As part of that community, both Fosseneuve and Garand met mentors – and new friends – through the Neechiwaken Indigenous Peer Mentor Program, where new and experienced students are paired together to share knowledge, skills and expertise.
“My favourite part of QBTS would have to be the Neechiwaken Indigenous Peer Mentor Program, as this is an opportunity to meet with a student who has gone through much of the struggles I am dealing with now,” says Fosseneuve. “My peer mentor gives me ongoing support and advice; they have allowed me to work through my courses with confidence.”
For Garand, who plans to pursue nursing with Mahkwa omushki kiim: Pathway to Indigenous Nursing Education (formerly the Aboriginal Nursing Cohort Initiative), the opportunity to match with a mentor also encouraged new interests and projects like learning to tan fish skin and beading.
“I cannot speak more highly about QBTS…I ended up becoming part of an all-encompassing and dynamic group of empowering and strong Indigenous trailblazers,” she says. “QBTS has really taught me perseverance and that you are never in anything alone…As I head into my faculty in the fall, I will be taking the Elders, advisors and my new community with me.”
The Qualico Bridge to Success program at the Indigenous Student Centre is made possible thanks to the generous support of Qualico, a leader in real estate development based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.