KPU opens doors and opens minds for Indigenous youth

Fri, May 4, 2018

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) welcomed more than 60 Indigenous students to its Surrey campus to hear from inspirational speakers and learn about post-secondary study options.

The Open Doors, Open Minds event on May 2 attracted students from 21 schools and education centres, primarily in Surrey, Delta and Langley. They heard speakers such as Shane Wally and Jane Koepke, who developed world class mountain bike trails in the Yukon, and entrepreneurs Casey Desjarlais and Dakota Bear, who also goes by his hip hop artist name Dakk’One.

“It was a great learning opportunity for the community of native culture and acceptance of ourselves,” said River Serna-Head, a Grade 10 student from Frank Hurt Secondary in Surrey.

After a welcome from KPU’s Elder-in-Residence Lekeyten, and Provost and VP, Academic Dr. Sal Ferreras, the students heard from Wally and Koepke about how youth from the Carcross/Tagish First Nation had developed old gold-rush paths in the Carcross area of the Yukon to create more than 70 kilometres of mountain bike trails that attract visitors from around the world.

The students broke into groups to experience classes at KPU in subjects such as physics, health and computer-aided design, before gathering again to hear Brad Baker, a member of the Squamish Nation and district principal of Aboriginal Education and Safe Schools for North Vancouver School District, talk about the importance of education in the process of reconciliation.

Dakk’One and pow wow dancer Casey Desjarlais, who together established Indigenous lifestyle clothing brand 30604 Apparel after moving to Vancouver from Saskatoon, spoke to the students about taking opportunities and action to change their world. Dakk’One, a Plains Cree First Nations hip hop artist, concluded by performing two of his songs.

“The event was amazing,” said Justin Sisson, a student at Johnston Heights Secondary in Surrey. “I learned a bunch of stuff; how we have to remember the past but not be obsessed about the past and push past that.”

Dr. Ferreras said, “Open Doors, Open Minds is a way to engage indigenous students in the activities that KPU has to offer to realize their life aspirations and to understand that KPU is a welcoming place for them.”

Photos from the event are available on Flickr.

Open Doors, Open Minds 2018