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Concordia entrance program gatemway to higher learning.

By Sonja McKay

Windspeaker Contributor


Sandra Power believes education plays a pivotal role in both the personal and financial well-being of many First Nations people and enhances the quality of life, not only for the individual, but their entire family and, possibly, even future generations.

As a child growing up on the Muscowpetung First Nation in Saskatchewan, Power said emphasis was not put on education.

"Both of my parents attended Lebret Residential School and, coming out of that generation, education was not viewed as a positive experience. Education was not considered important so there was little encouragement," said Power.

As co-ordinator and counsellor of the University and College Entrance Program for Aboriginal Adults at Concordia University College of Alberta, Power hopes to assist others in overcoming the negative image of education passed on by those who had unfortunate experiences in the residential school system. Power provides academic advice and support to students.

"Like myself, many students have known dysfunctional life-styles and are trying to break out of the cycle that may have kept them from academic success in the past," said Power.

Since 1985, the entrance program has been equipping students with the skills required to succeed in university and college settings. Former student Judy Phillips described the program as a stepping stone to achieving her career goal of becoming a journalist.

Ruth Ann Linklater, a 1989 grad, said prior to the program, "I had little faith in my academic skill." Graduating from the program removed her fear of academic failure. Today, Linklater holds a Masters Degree in Science and is a marriage and family therapist.

The eight-month-long day program designed for students who are 21 years of age or older consists of courses in mathematics, English, biology, chemistry, physics, social studies, career development and computers. Students may also take Native Studies 152, a university-level course that provides an introduction to the Cree language. The program runs from September to April, with information sessions set to begin in late January.

It wasn't all that long ago Power was a student in the university and college preparation program. Graduating in 1993, the program equipped her with the academic background needed for university entrance. More importantly, however, was the impact of the program on her inner-self. Power credits program instructors for furnishing her with a higher sense of self and giving her the confidence to take the next step in achieving her goal. The following year, armed with new-found confidence, Power entered her first year of university studies at Concordia.

An entry in her journal during her last term in the university and college entrance program reflects her long standing desire to obtain her university education.

"This term will go down as one of the most memorable events in my life. I know this is not an ending, but the beginning of the fulfillment of dreams and promises made in my youth."

In 1997 at the age of 40, Power graduated from the University of Alberta with her Bachelor of Arts Degree. When she was hired in August 1998 by Concordia, Power's efforts culminated into her dream of assisting others in reaching their goals.

"I discovered it's never too late to go back to school," said Power who was 35 and a mother of four children when she started the university and college entrance program. "It takes a lot of courage, commitment and hard work, but in the end, it is so worthwhile. I would encourage anyone who has ever dreamed of going to university or college to start working towards their goals now. The University and College Entrance program serves as an excellent gateway to a degree or diploma. I can honestly say it's brought me to where I am today and has given me a career where I can help others realize their full potential," said Power.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:McKay, Sonja
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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