Reaching out to Aboriginal students through lacrosse
Taking a day off to learn more about Canada’s national sport, 75 Aboriginal high school students from Six Nations participated in the second Laurier High School Friendship Lacrosse Day at Wilfrid Laurier University on Oct. 13. The event offered the students tours, speakers and drills and scrimmages put on by lacrosse coaches.
“It was really all about bringing them on campus and coming together, community building and just to showcase what we could offer here at our campus,” said Melissa Ireland, Aboriginal student support co-ordinatorat WLU.
“They loved the day, they felt really engaged. It was really a good opportunity for them to come and learn some post secondary options for them.”
“It went very smoothly with everything we planned,” added Kandice Baptiste, Laurier’s Aboriginal students recruitment and retention officer, who started in May after graduating from WLU. “I think we really made an impact on the students with the campus tours.”
One of the main goals of the tournament was to expose the students to a university setting as well as to showcase many of the Aboriginal student services, such as an Aboriginal Student Association, that WLU has to offer.
“It was really a good opportunity for them to come and learn some post-secondary options for them,” continued Ireland. “Also being taught in a sport they love and care about.”
Aside from receiving tips about lacrosse, the students also had the opportunity to listen to various speakers, including a Six Nations elder in the morning.
Allan Downey, a PhD candidate at WLU who spoke at the event, gave valuable insight on what it means to be an Aboriginal post-secondary student, as well, what it’s like to be an avid lacrosse player and how sport motivated him to pursue further education.
“We want to create a community so
that when students come to Laurier
they have that family community feel
—Kandice Baptiste, Aboriginal students recruitment and retention officer
Many of the services and initiatives are relatively young, as the Aboriginal Centre at WLU was only established in August of 2010. While they may be new, both Ireland and Baptiste are hopeful that these services will increase the Aboriginal population at Laurier.
“I can’t underscore the fact that our initiatives are new,” explained Ireland. “[But] we do have a thriving and growing Aboriginal student population.”
Currently, Laurier has about 300 Aboriginal undergraduate students and approximately 70 graduate students at the Waterloo campus.
Baptiste echoed Ireland’s sentiment, “I don’t think we’re a destination school for students, our services are very young.”
“I find that a lot of the students are unaware of Laurier or the institution as a whole, but I think we can only get better. The university has made it a priority so we can only gain momentum that way,” she said.
Part of Baptiste’s role at WLU is to recruit more First Nations students from various high schools and First Nations communities. To achieve this, Baptiste will continue to create more initiatives and make strong efforts in her recruiting.
“My job is to make sure the transition is easy for them. We try to help before they even come to Laurier, up until the point they graduate,” said Baptiste.
“We want to create a community so that when students come to Laurier, they have that family community feel on campus.”