$13.5M awarded to VIU for Indigenous students


WATCH: Indigenous youth who never imagined going to university can reconsider their options. On Wednesday, Vancouver Island University announced it has received $13.5 million in new funding to grow the enrolment and graduation rates of Indigenous students facing barriers.

Ami Pistone isn’t letting fear stand in her way any longer. The Duncan mother of a special needs boy who doubted she’d ever get to pursue her post secondary dreams is living them now, attending her first term at Vancouver Island University (VIU) to become a social worker. This is thanks to new funding pouring into VIU for Indigenous students facing barriers.

“I wouldn’t be at university if it wasn’t for this program,” said Pistone.

On Wednesday, VIU announced it has been awarded $13.5 million by the Rideau Hall Foundation and Master Card Foundation in a pilot project designed to increase enrolment and completion rates of Indigenous students, Pistone is one of the first recipients of the funding.

“This gave me the confidence to be like somebody does believe me to do this,” said Pistone.

“Awesome,” said VIU Elder-in-Residence Gary Manson when speaking about the project. “Awesome.”

Manson calls the new project real work towards reconciliation.

“If you’re afraid by yourself then go and stand with someone and that’s what this is all about,” said Manson.

The new financial support will help cover tuition and wrap-around supports for Indigenous students with the promise, but not the funds or supports to pursue university.

“I want them to feel they belong here,” said VIU Education Navigator Emmy Manson. “They have a place here and what they’re doing isn’t just for themselves but for their nation and for their children to create a new legacy around education,” said Manson.

The enhanced services will support over 1,800 Indigenous students at VIU. Last year, 100 Indigenous students graduated. Amy Pistone hopes to add her name to that list and in the future, maybe even her son’s name.

“I’m hoping one day he sees this as somewhere he can go,” said Pistone proudly.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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