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Partnership paving the way for systemic change

Update on Mastercard Foundation partnership activities

December 11, 2023 — 

More than 2,000 Indigenous youth in Manitoba have already benefited from the University of Manitoba’s innovative partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.

Just over two years ago, the $16.1 million partnership set out to transform Indigenous education through initiatives co-created with Indigenous students, communities, governments and organizations, as well as post-secondary institutions across the province.

“We’re thrilled to have supported thousands of Indigenous learners so quickly into our partnership, and in ways that celebrate their identities and cultures,” says Ruth Shead, executive director of Indigenous Engagement and Communications at UM, who oversees the partnership.

“Thanks to the support of the Foundation’s EleV Program, and through continued evaluation and collaboration with our partners—and especially Indigenous youth—we hope to identify how the spaces we learn and work in need to change at a systems level to become places where Indigenous students truly belong throughout their educational journeys and into their careers.”“We’re proud to partner with the University of Manitoba and support their work with Indigenous youth and communities to transform the post-secondary education system,” says Jennifer Brennan, Director, Canada Programs at the Mastercard Foundation.

“Their efforts are embedding Indigenous cultures, languages and values into education, ensuring Indigenous youth have a voice in the changes that support their success and working with all of Manitoba’s post-secondary institutions to bring quality education to Indigenous students right in their communities,” she continues. “This is the kind of Indigenous-led innovation that will set a new path forward.”

One of the partnership’s primary goals is to increase access to post-secondary education in the places Indigenous students call home, made possible through the development of community learning hubs. In summer 2023, Pine Creek First Nation joined Pinaymootang First Nation as home to a remote learning hub that connects local students with educational opportunities. Two other learning hubs are in the works.

A group of Indigenous students pose together in front of a wall with three logos on it.

Students from the Indigenous Circle of Empowerment program with guest speaker, the Honourable Nahanni Fontaine, Minister of Families, Government of Manitoba. (2023)

Other partnership pillars seek to increase Indigenous student success through strengthening post-secondary collaboration, enhancing supports for transition to post-secondary institutions, and building pathways to employment and entrepreneurship.

Since its inception, the partnership has supported the creation of several programs to help reach those goals, including the Lawmakers program, which has seen great success in connecting Indigenous students in UM’s Faculty of Law with Seven Oaks School Division high school students.

Additional new programs include the Where We First Stand Transition Camp for first-year Indigenous students relocating to Winnipeg, and Scaabe School, which introduces Indigenous youth to the roles and responsibilities of an Oskâpêwis (Scaabe/kwe) or Helper to Sweat Lodge Carriers and Caretakers. The partnership has also supported the hiring of an Indigenous career consultant to connect Indigenous students with related career planning services.

Existing community and UM initiatives have also joined the growing list of EleV-supported programs, such as the Indigenous Youth Mentorship Program (a culturally-based, community-focused physical activity program for youth), Land and Water Program, Indigenous Circle of Empowerment student leadership program and Post-Secondary Club.

“Everything we’re doing is response to what Indigenous youth and communities have identified as how we can create new ways for youth to access post-secondary education and find their chosen career paths,” says Shead. “While we still have a long road ahead, we look forward to seeing how they lead to systemic change and impact generations to come.”

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