‘We are the leaders of tomorrow’
Bronson Cross is not alone in his commitment to creating a better future through education for members of Canada’s First Nations.
Cross is one of 24 Aboriginal students who graduated from Concordia this spring. To spotlight their success, the Aboriginal Student Resource Centre (ASRC), part of the university’s Student Services, held a special ceremony in the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex (EV Building) on June 12.
“We are the leaders of tomorrow,” Cross said to the audience of 65, including Morning Star, the centre’s elder-in-residence; First Peoples Studies program director Karl Hele; and Catherine Bolton, the university’s vice-provost of Teaching and Learning. “We have to continue to pass the message along and together find what is our fire.”
The 24 graduates come from the Mi’kmaq, Mohawk, Cree, Inuit, Anishinaabe and Métis nations. Many are the first in their families to obtain a post-secondary education.
The ARSC is dedicated to helping these students succeed. As the centre’s coordinator, Nadine Montour, explained, for those on their own for the first time, “the ASRC provides a ‘home-away-from-home’ environment.”
In addition to welcoming students year-round, the centre serves as a community space and offers cultural activities like beadwork sessions. It provides writing assistance and a computer lab, access to a resource centre with more than 2000 books. Students may also consult with Morning Star.
Montour was proud to see how far the class of 2014 had come.
“They are true role models,” she said. “When we see the graduates giving back to their community by encouraging and helping others continue their education, then we have all accomplished something great.”
Two of the students, Thea Cammie and Emma Kreuger, are the inaugural graduates in First Peoples Studies. Concordia launched the program — the only one of its kind in Quebec — as a minor in January 2013.
Karl Hele, program director and an associate professor in the School of Community and Public Affairs, offered both students eagle feathers from his elders in Garden River, Alberta. In many Aboriginal cultures, the eagle represents transformative potential and a connection with the creator.
The 24 graduates were presented with a commemorative stole — a scarf-like garment worn over the shoulders.
As new graduate Tannis Osborne pointed out, “We have chosen academia, and now we see that perseverance, dedication and hard work lead to success.”