The 2014 Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards gala took place in Edmonton’s DoubleTree by Hilton West Edmonton Hotel on September 20, marking the ninth year that the organization has been celebrating the achievements of deserving Métis students and helping them to move forward with their studies and their futures. This year the awards foundation received 226 applications and honoured the achievements of 140 Métis students, each of whom received between $2,000 and $7,000 in scholarship award money.
“Last year,” noted BBMA Marketing and Communications Manager, Theresa Majeran, “we had 225 applicants applying for $1.7 million in support for tuition costs alone; more than 130 awards valued at just under $600,000 were offered to students ensuring that some of their financial barriers to getting an education were removed. This year a similar number applied and more than $700,000 was awarded.”
“The money that the students receive,” explained Majeran, “will enable them to pursue or continue post-secondary education in a college or university or allow them to pursue trades-related careers.”
Students who receive the awards are breaking new ground as they work in earnest to become the leaders of tomorrow. “The awards program has proven to be a difference-maker,” agreed Majeran.
“The success of this initiative has a great deal to do with the achievements of the recipients. Our graduates are getting noticed by our sponsors who continue to hire them. This is because recipients continue to strive for excellence as they work to finish their education and pursue their chosen careers.”
“We’ve received major contributions in the past by corporate sponsors who understand the importance and the value of educating our youth and know what they are achieving. Many BBMA recipients have completed their education and are realizing their goals; more than 50 recipients have gone on to become nurses; 37 have become teachers; 31 are now social workers. Past recipients also include 12 doctors, 20 lawyers, 17 (mechanical, electrical, civil) engineers, 15 environmental and conservation science grads, a chiropractor and a veterinarian.”
“The support we receive each year is very much needed and very much appreciated,” explained Majeran, who applauded the “many resource companies such as Shell Canada, NEXEN, Syncrude and Enbridge who are not only helping us recognize the achievements of Métis youth, but are also tapping into the vibrant and fully educated resources of potential employees to fill the growing job opportunities in Alberta today.”
More than 400 guests, including new Sash recipients, family members, past recipients, Elders, Founders, panel members and dozens of sponsors attended the Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards celebration. 55 of the 140 awards recipients attened this year’s gala and participated in the Sash Ceremony, hosted by Edmonton Elders Betty Lafferty-Letendre and Jerry Woods.
“The Sash Ceremony,” explained Majeran, “is one of the highlights of the annual gala and this year Shell Canada became the first Sash Ceremony Presenting Sponsor of this prestigious event. Shell Canada is one of many companies that recognize the importance and value of the awards; last year they provided a $100,000 donation to the program. The company has hired more than a dozen BBMA recipients over the past several years so they are not only fully aware of the importance of supporting the program, they’ve stepped up and done just that.”
Last year former BBMA award winner, Calgary resident Naomi Rau, was one of several recipients to be employed by Shell Canada.
“She in turn is giving back and helping to fund the education for future Métis students,” noted Majeran, who said that next year Rau will be donating to the BBMA fund. “Naomi established the Rau Family Fund last year and it has already grown to $10,000 this year. Next year the interest gained will be used to help Métis students continue on with the education.”
Other sponsors include the Alberta Scholarship Programs, Alberta Health Services, the family of June Virginia Robinson, Canative housing, The Cowden family, and the recently established Marge Friedel Fund.
“In addition to recognizing the contribution made to the community by the late Marge Freidel,” noted Majeran, “this year we also honoured Homer Poitras and the recently passed Ray St. Germaine. Both of these wonderful men gave much of their time and energy to supporting their communities; their contribution to Métis culture and tradition will be missed.”
Elder Betty Lafferty provided the dinner blessing and teamed up with Elder Jerry Woods to host the 2014 Sash Ceremony.
“Betty opened the venue again this year with a prayer,” said Majeran, adding that the singing of O’Canada and a presentation of the Métis Anthem was delivered by Sarah Wolfe.”
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 handed out over 1300 awards to more than 950 Metis learners in 200 different post-secondary programs throughout Alberta. In all, more than $5.5 million in awards have been handed out. Gifts and donations to the BBMA fund total over $13.5 million.
“The event has been growing steadily since its inception in 2001,” noted Majeran. “The number of dedicated volunteers continues to increase as well; this year we had a group of past recipients, community volunteers and panel members helping out. On the night of the event everyone worked together to make the event a tremendous success.”
The BBMA breaks down barriers, creates possibilities, and builds pride in the Métis culture; the awards provide financial support to help Métis students pursue post-secondary education and skills development. They are about much more than money. Creating possibilities starts with partnership. In 2001, the BBMA Founders and the ECF shared a vision of building individual strength for Métis students through learning. Since 2001, the BBMA panel and ECF have granted more than 1,000 awards to Alberta Métis post-secondary students.
“This year, 140 Métis students are pursuing their dreams of post-secondary education in Alberta through the support of the BBMA,” noted Majeran. “BBMA recipients are successful! Over 96 percent of award recipients completed their year of studies, and with knowledge and success these young people are empowered to succeed. Hundreds of our students are now employed across the province in all professions. With a strong foundation of education, former BBMA students are now contributing to their communities, their professions, and their success provides mentorship for their peers.”
The future is beckoning, assured Majeran, who said the economic outlook for the next few years indicates that there is no time like the present for students to get the motors running so they can be better equipped to face the growing challenges of tomorrow.
“Within a decade,” she predicted, “Aboriginal workers will represent one of every five new entrants into the labor market so it is critical to ensure that skilled Aboriginal workers are ready to meet industry’s needs.”
“The challenge is to have a trained workforce prepared to meet the coming demand for employees in Alberta. The demands for educational funding to the BBMA awards program are increasing each year and the need to engage endowment fund donors has become evident. Annual funding requests are increasing and are now at $1.9 million with an annual amount available to disburse at approximately $500,000. The BBMA endowment fund is established with the Edmonton Community Foundation and is so successful that it can boast a 96 per cent completion rate of its students for a funded year.”
Theresa Majeran is available to visit your community organization or school to talk about the awards and welcomes inquiries and contributions from companies and individuals who would like to get involved in helping to improve the lives and the opportunities of Métis students. You can contact her at 780-977-5515 or at [email protected].
by John Copley