Program pushes aboriginals to post-secondary success
Post-secondary student Janelle Dobson-Kocsis has used aboriginal bridge programs to find success at Simon Fraser University and Douglas College. (SUBMITTED)
Grade 5 math class was mortifying for Janelle Dobson-Kocsis, who frequently cried after coming home from her lessons.
“I was really pushed through the system,” recalled the 24-year-old member of the Kwanlin Dun aboriginal band.
“I need to see a drawing on a board to understand how fast a car goes in what amount of time — I don’t see it in the numbers, I see it in the pictures.”
As Canada recognizes National Aboriginal Day Friday, the Vancouver woman said understanding the distinct ways some First Nations people learn is imperative for creating success in her community.
Dobson-Kocsis, who is preparing for Douglas College’s psychiatric nursing curriculum this fall, credited her post-secondary accomplishments to Simon Fraser University’s aboriginal bridge programs.
Instead of walking into an auditorium to listen to a lecture with 300 of their peers, SFU’s Aboriginal Pre-Health program eased her into post-secondary life by placing her in a small classroom with less than a dozen peers for two semesters.
SFU biology professor Felix Breden, who founded the school's Teaching Aboriginal Youth in Biomedical Labs program, said too many institutions fail to entice First Nations people into scientific fields.
“A lot of the aboriginal students that we do get, for various reasons, don’t have the preparation in math and science in the secondary schools that they need,” he said.
“So many careers are closed to them.”
Although math was once Dobson-Kocsis’ nemesis, she is now a volunteer instructor for an aboriginal math program that uses storytelling techniques to teach youths.
“If I didn’t have the (APH) program, I wouldn’t have the confidence that I have now.”