by John Copley
(ANNEws) – If you are a serious student of Metis ancestry who needs financial assistance in order to complete your education, now is the time to submit your online application for a Belcourt Brosseau Metis Award (BBMA); the deadline is March 31.
“Applications must be in on or before March 31,” explained BBMA Communications Coordinator, Theresa Majeran. “We are expecting a large number of applications again this year so it would be a good idea to get yours in as soon as possible.”
To qualify for an award BBMA applicants must be an Alberta Métis (any age), have a financial need that prevents them from attaining a post-secondary education on their own and have a connection to their Métis community. Applicants are evaluated on a number of criteria, including but not limited to: likelihood of improved opportunities through education, connection to their Métis community, financial need, and personal circumstances. Two current references are also required. BBMA awards are to be utilized during the applicant’s current school year for tuition and fees.
Established in 2001 at the Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) offices by then-directors of the Canative Housing Corporation, Orval Belcourt, Dr. Herb Belcourt and Georges R. Brosseau Q.C., the BBMA initiative has given out more than 1800 awards to Métis students attending more than 200 different post-secondary programs throughout Alberta and beyond. In all, more than $7.2 million in awards have been granted.
“Awards,” explained Georges Brosseau, “can be as little as $1,000 and as high as $10,000 or more. Recipients are selected on an individual basis; awards are not based on marks alone. We look at the overall individual and anyone can qualify, providing they meet the criteria of the Awards Panel, which is made up by Métis people. Sometimes an individual is selected because we see that he or she has struggled through difficult times but remains dedicated to achieving both an education and a successful life. People aren’t refused because they don’t have high marks; we base our decisions on the whole person and are very cognizant that they sometimes don’t have opportunities. We try to provide the opportunity that many of our young students need – what they do with it will determine their future.”
The annual awards, he added, were created “to uplift our people so they can succeed in the world; to do this they need to be educated. Education is the key to success and therefore we are pushing as hard as we can to give out as many awards as we can each year.”
Majeran says the BBMA Awards initiative continues to meet its four goals and its objectives, which include “helping students connect with their culture and each other as alumni; providing a sense of identity to enhance success rates in both educational endeavours and subsequent careers; offering our sponsors the opportunity to network and engage with recipients for future employment opportunities and encouraging Corporate Alberta to become more involved.”
Other objectives include “showcasing success stories within the Métis community and increasing awareness of the BBMA among potential applicants and sponsors and through honouring the educational achievements of Métis students in their journey to be part of Alberta’s strong economic future.”
As the event grows so does the need for every more volunteers. “We have been very fortunate and do have a number of very dedicated volunteers who come out to support us each year, but we are always interested in hearing from others who would like to participate,” concluded Majeran.
The BBMA’s annual banquet and awards ceremony is the highlight of the year for the organization. This year the BBMA gala will take place at the Edmonton Inn and Conference Centre on Kingsway Avenue beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 21.
The annual BBMA awards ceremony, noted Majeran, has four main goals: “helping students connect with their culture and each other as alumni; providing a sense of identity to enhance success rates in both educational endeavours and subsequent careers; offering our sponsors the opportunity to network and engage with recipients for future employment opportunities and encouraging corporate Alberta to become more involved.”
Other objectives include “showcasing success stories within the Métis community and increasing awareness of the BBMA program among potential applicants and sponsors and through honouring the educational achievements of Métis students on their journey” to participate in Alberta’s growing economy.
“Thanks to the ongoing support of our many partners,” noted Majeran,
“Alberta’s Métis students are breaking new ground and setting new precedents as they achieve their educational goals and move into the next phase of life. Many of our graduates have become leaders in their communities and their province. BBMA awards recipients have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, veterinarians, and much more. Our graduates are also getting the recognition they deserve from many of our sponsor organizations, who not only hire them but also continue to support this worthy initiative.”
Graduates and awards recipients often comment on their educational pursuits and their awards experiences, as did two 2018 recipients, Ramsey Mudryk and Taneiya Mahe.
Mudryk is enrolled at the Emergency Services Academy where he is going to be studying to become a Primary Care Paramedic, a career field that he decided to pursue when he was a volunteer at the Elk Point Fire Department.
“I am from a small town in east central Alberta and growing up I had little knowledge of my Metis heritage and little exposure to Metis culture. My family is like many others that chose not to fully embrace their Metis heritage for generations in order to avoid discrimination and persecution. I didn’t start learning much about Metis history until it started being discussed in social studies in junior high. Since then, being Metis has become an integral part of my identity. Over time I continue to learn more about our history and about what it means to be Metis today in the modern world. I believe that one of the qualities that has allowed the Metis community to grow and become what it is today, it is our sense of family, community and our willingness to help each other achieve our ambitions.
“My dream is to improve the access and quality of emergency services such as fire rescue and emergency medical services on Metis settlements throughout Alberta. I’ve been volunteering as a firefighter in my hometown for over two years now and when I first joined I knew a career in emergency services was exactly what I wanted. Through my service as a first responder with a department that provides mutual aid for one Cree nation reservation and one Metis settlement, I experience firsthand the issues they faced in regards to emergency response and safety. These issues include a lack of funding for proper resources and training, discrimination from responders from outside communities, and response times of over an hour. That means, when something terrible happens in those communities, when it could be the worst day of someone’s life, they have to wait at least an hour for someone to respond and help. These are the kinds of issues I wish to address in my career and I need to have the knowledge and experience to do so. This process for me would not have been possible to achieve.
“Thanks to the Belcourt Brosseau Metis Award, I believe I will now have the resources to achieve my goals and career dreams. Without this award, those barriers would hold me back from doing what I passionately wish to do and the BBMA is all about breaking down those barriers for Metis people like me. In the short term, this award allows me to pay my tuition fees but in the long run, it will contribute to improving the Metis community and Nation as a whole because it is an investment in a better future for us all.
“And finally, I would just like to thank the Founders Georges Brosseau and Orval Belcourt as well as the awards panel. Thank you very much. I will make you proud and I won’t waste your investment in me.”
First year award recipient, Taneiya Mahe comes from St. Vincent, Alberta. She is currently studying education at the University of Alberta; her goal is to become an elementary school teacher.
“The Belcourt Brosseau Metis Award has opened many doors to my future and has expanded the availability for my dreams to come true,” explained Mahe. “Ever since I was a little girl and was asked the question ‘Who do you want to be when you are older?’ I always answered with ‘teacher.’ My desire to be a teacher stemmed from my desire to be a ‘mom.’ While this is unusual for a young girl, it was only because of my admiration of my own mother who was a single mom to ten children, one of which she had by birth, and the rest of us, including myself, were adopted. All of us that were adopted were either Metis or First Nations children.
Having many other siblings that experienced hardships similar to my own made my transition into my forever home easier. I’m grateful that my Mom had such a big heart to take us all in. As a teacher I hope to influence Metis children to find their identity when they are young so it can carry them through their whole life. Metis students with a sense of pride can go far in this world.”
The Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) has been a partner with the BBMA for 17 years, about a decade after ECF began working to create and maintain a strong, vibrant community by acting as a bridge between donors’ wishes and the needs of charities in the greater Edmonton area. By pooling contributions from individuals and organizations, ECF creates permanent endowment funds that provide long-term support for a wide range of local charitable organizations and causes, while helping donors maximize the impact of their charitable giving. To date the Foundation has allocated more than $190 million to enhance and strengthen the community.
For more information on the awards program, the BBMA gala or the application process contact Communications Coordinator Theresa Majeran at 780-977-5515 or by email to [email protected].