Resilience through an education lens: UAlberta Transition Year Program

by Laura Mushumanski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – It seems that among the constant busyness we create all around us, that busyness usually is interpreted as bad energy, chaos and overwhelming, yet there is beauty and magic being created for us – when we allow ourselves to walk humbly with the spirit of creator in our hearts.

There are valuable teachings patiently waiting for each and every person to embody and find the sacredness of the gifts that are helping us to grow alongside each other. Each lesson that is gifted to us can be interpreted in several ways, but it is how the learner interprets these teachings that will aid them in good spirits as they become gentle, kind and compassionate like Mother Earth.

Each of us was given gifts from the Creator. How we share our unique gifts with the people, places and things that bring nourishment, enrichment, and healing into our lives, can be interpreted as a means to becoming stewards of the land, caretakers for our communities and guardians that keep the spirit of our ancestors alive.

And when one of our Indigenous brothers and sisters continues to challenge themselves and applies for admittance to attend a postsecondary institution with hopes in their hearts to obtain a white paper, where this time around there is a celebration for their academic achievements, they have yet to experience one of the most internal challenges, that in time, will aid their spirit and support their journey in understanding their unique gift.

For every Indigenous academic who applies to attend the University of Alberta, an idea that led their spirits to them to wanting to spend endless hours reading material they initially will want to light on fire, that encouraged them to eat ichiban noodles religiously, and where their endless supply of sacred tears could preserve the North Saskatchewan River from drying up – all of what can seem like unpleasantries of the human experience – there is a gift waiting to be revealed.

At the University of Alberta, there is this welcoming hub, filled with big aunty energy and a place that has all your smudging essentials, First Peoples’ House. Within this home away from home where the aunties are there to support every Indigenous student that walks into the doors of First Peoples’ House, food included, there is a specific place for any Indigenous student. While some students are seeking to transition from living on reserve to living in Edmonton, or perhaps the student is no spring chicken and wants to go back to school to become a role model for their children and families – whatever the case is, the Transition Year Program (TYP) is a gateway for all Indigenous people that want to venture into the world of academia.

The TYP was created in the early 1980’s, (you know – the era that still thinks mom jeans are incredibly fashionable, that they have made a comeback for the millennials to experience what our young kohkoms once wore to get our mosoms’ attention).

For the past 38 years, the Transition Year Program has encouraged, supported and empowered Indigenous students to receive an education that once upon a time our relatives would have been either denied access to or accepted under strict conditions. Currently, the Associate Director of the Transition Year Program, Suzanne Butler, is one of the aunties who has seen the humourous chaos that comes with the unpleasantries of the human experience, where she is accepting of people for who they are, while being gifted a tremendous honour and opportunity to open a door for a student and watch them grow with an abundance of love, strength and humility by their side.

The connections we make along the way, the intense amount of love that arises once the clouds are appreciated amongst the chaos, is the most beautiful and sincere part of life that is gifted to us each and every day. And when becoming and being an academic – sometimes for nearly 10 years till that white paper is obtained, it is the process that writes the destination, where it is to be enjoyed for what it is and not what it should be. So while in your first year of studies and part of the Transition Year Program, there are two mandatory courses, the first is setting the stage for ‘surviving’ during the first semester on campus, followed by preparing for entry into a degree program and what Butler likes to call the ‘thriving’ stage.

The Transition Year Program allows opportunities for students to boost their grade point average, be a part of and learn about the essence and importance of community, be among other Indigenous students to learn and grow with, and have the opportunity to believe in themselves.

The deadline to apply for the Transition Year Program Fall 2022 term is approaching – June 1st, and for the January 2023 start date, the applications open August 1st and close October 1st – every year. Applicants need a minimum of their grade 12 English 30-1 and one other 30 level high school course to be considered into the program, unless wanting to apply for a competitive degree program post their transition year, then a few more 30 level high-school courses would be required for entry.

From the wise words taken off the fast-paced version of the moccasin telegram, “if you were able to believe in Santa Claus for 8 years, you can believe in yourself for 5 minutes,” the strength each one of us carries is what connects all of us to becoming stewards, caretakers and guardians of the land and all that reside on Mother Earth.

Whether you are seeking more information or are curious about the University of Alberta’s Transition Year Program or any of the services First Peoples’ House has to offer, please contact First Peoples’ House directly ([email protected]) so that one of the aunties can support your inquiries.

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