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Tla’amin Nation students receive bursaries via educational fund

Lorraine Wilson Memorial Fund provides money for continuing education
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE: Tla’amin Nation post-secondary students [from left] Jeannie Leon, Jasmine Menendez and Jack Gustafson have received bursaries from the Lorraine Wilson Memorial Fund to help them with their education costs. The bursaries have been awarded in memory of Lorraine Wilson, who was a longtime educational advocate.

Three Tla’amin Nation students are benefitting from an educational bursary program, established as the Lorraine Wilson (Timothy) Memorial Fund.

According to Wilson’s daughter Cheryl Borgfjord, the bursaries were focused on students who are wanting to continue their education on a post-secondary or trades level, in memory of her mother.

Borgfjord said she had awarded two $1,700 bursaries in September to Jack Gustafson and Jeannie Leon. Gustafson is attending Vancouver Island University to pursue a career in the health-care assistant program, said Borgfjord. She added that Leon has an extensive education background, with two degrees, and is in the process of pursuing a master of arts in counselling psychology at Yorkville University.

A third “surprise bursary” of $700 was awarded to Jasmin Menendez, who is in her second year of post-secondary education, pursuing a career in Indigenous youth and wellness, according to Borgfjord.

“It’s a win just to see how hard these students are working toward bettering themselves,” said Borgfjord. “A lot of them want to come back and give back and help Tla’amin, which is a nice, big bonus.”

Applicants were requested to write a 500-word essay about themselves and there were nine submissions for the bursaries, according to Borgfjord. 

“The fields of study are so diverse,” she added. “Education was so important to my mom. She went to residential school and was at four different schools from a very young age, up until she was 17. She left in grade 11 and then she had me. She was out of school for more than 30 years.”

Borgfjord said her mother enrolled at what was known then as Malaspina College [now Vancouver Island University] to complete her education in her mid-50s.

“She was always bettering herself academically,” said Borgfjord. “To see where she came from, and everything she endured, that she was able to hold onto the language and culture meant a whole lot to her.”

Borgfjord said she had several fundraising ventures to help fund the bursaries. She put together an online silent auction initially and had been working on the bursaries for more than two years. She also put items up for sale on online swap and shop forums and it all added up. She also received a generous donation of $500.

“The support from the community was just so awesome,” said Borgfjord.

She said she is planning on another silent auction before Christmas, with dates to be announced, to continue to raise funds to provide bursaries in the future. She believes these bursaries are the first of their kind and she wanted to find a way to honour her mother and keep her memory going.

“It seemed like a fitting thing,” she added.

She passed along a quote from her mother: “There is something to be said for education; it empowers/rewards, and gives one a sense of accomplishment. If I can do it, anybody can.”

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