Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com
Indigenous post-secondary students from across Canada will be among those to receive funding from a new bursary fund.
Details of the $50 million TELUS Student Bursary Fund were announced at a news conference in Toronto Oct. 11.
This fund is now the largest student bursary endowment in Canada.
Half of the funding, $25 million, is from TELUS, a telecommunications company in the country. The other $25 million is courtesy of the TELUS Friendly Future Foundation.
Indspire, the national Indigenous organization that invests in the education of Indigenous people, is a partner of the new fund. Fifty of the bursary recipients will be Indigenous.
Funding will be awarded annually to those who are between 17 and 29 years of age and are either accepted into or attending a post-secondary school in Canada.
Those studying at university will be eligible for $5,000 in funding, while college students will receive $3,000 bursaries.
Mike DeGagne, Indspire’s president and CEO, is pleased about the new bursaries.
“TELUS stepping up, someone with this kind of profile, means a lot to the organization,” he said.
“TELUS is a well-recognized name in Canada. The idea that people like TELUS are supporting us, that’s a big deal.”
DeGagne said Indspire is grateful for TELUS and numerous other partners.
“We get a lot of money from corporations, governments and from individuals,” he said. “But it’s really important on who your partners are, if they have credibility in the community and they’re already seen to be very supportive of truth and reconciliation.”
DeGagne also said there are about 32,000 Indigenous students at post-secondary institutions across Canada.
That’s a far cry from the way things were a half-century ago.
“In the 70s there were no Indigenous students at post-secondary schools in Canada,” he said. “We had to enfranchise in order to attend school. We had to give up our rights as Indigenous peoples in order to attend.”
That is no longer the case.
“Our students are now coming in record numbers,” DeGagne said. “So, we need to constantly get more and more support in the scholarship and bursary area. So, this is excellent. The contribution from TELUS is excellent.”
DeGagne said financial barriers have long existed for Indigenous students seeking higher education.
“There are a lot of students that will go and get band funding and they’ll get four years of funding and that’s great,” he said. “And then they’ll say I’m going to go on to a profession, or I’m going to go on to graduate studies, and the band says ‘we can’t continue to fund you. We have to fund your little brother’.”
That’s where Indspire tries its best to lend a helping hand.
“Indspire fills a lot of these gaps,” DeGagne said. “We do a lot of these professions. We do a lot of graduate schools. And, of course, we still do a lot of people who are looking to do an undergraduate degree.”
TELUS president and CEO Darren Entwistle is thrilled his company’s funding will assist.
“TELUS is committed to ensuring that our next generation of leaders have access to a brighter, more inclusive future, while they are also making a positive difference in their communities around causes that matter most to them,” he said.
Entwistle said the TELUS Student Bursary Fund is indeed unique. Each bursary recipient will commit to undertaking a project that will have a profound positive social, environmental or health impact.
Though bursary details were announced this week, the fund awarded money to more than 400 students across Canada to align with the start of the 2023-24 academic year.
All recipients committed to giving back in some form. Examples of projects fund recipients committed to including mentoring programs for youth, advocating for foster youth and child rights and assisting with meal donation programs to address food insecurity.
“By equipping underserved students with the resources, with the financial support and with the guidance that they need to gain vital life skills and launch their career successfully, we will empower the leaders of tomorrow to begin making the world a better place today,” Entwistle said.
Anita Anand, an MP who is the president of the Treasury Board of Canada, also attended the news conference announcing the TELUS fund.
“I hope that this sets an example of the type of giving that should continue to occur and build that relationship between the corporate sector and the educational institutions that are at the foundation of the lives of our country,” she said.
The application window for the bursaries will not be open until early 2024. More information on the bursaries is available at www.friendlyfuture.com/en/foundation/social-impact-bursary