Aboriginal residence floor in the works for Humber College
By Christian Quequish
The aboriginal resource center is looking to have a floor in Humber residence dedicated to aboriginal students.
“What we wanted to do was create a community within residence to help First Nations students who are on reserves especially and coming to Toronto with the culture shock and the move into a big city,” Jonathon Araujo, aboriginal student liaison, told Humber News.
He said some native students in the past have come to him and said they feel very isolated and alone when they come to residence because they are coming into a new city and they don’t have the same social skills that a lot of other students have.
“We’re currently picking the best spot to have the residence. Residence has several communities within it already, so we’re having a meeting to discuss what would be the best location,” Araujo said. “We’ll have Shelley Charles, elder manager to ensure there is cultural relevance within our community.”
Araujo said an important aspect of this plan is to create an opportunity to help transition to Humber. He said this would help in their outreach by providing them with a sense of support and a sense of security when they come to Humber.
“I never attended residence, so I don’t really know what it’s like in residence,” Araujo said. “Just by my community outreaches, I see a big difference in youth growing up on reserves—there is a big difference in the ability to socialize with different ethnicities when you live on reserve and in Toronto.”
Allysha Wassegijig, aboriginal student circle president and third year kinesiology student at the University of Guelph-Humber lived in residence her first year.
She said living in residence helped her transition to living away from home at a steady pace.
“It was close by the school, I never had to worry about bills, never had to worry about maintenance, never had to worry about going to the grocery store and things you wouldn’t think about right away,” Wassegijig said.
She said there were some negative aspects to living in residence.
“The only thing was at times I felt uncomfortable because I was so young, I was 17, and a lot of the people on my floor were sometimes 20 or 22-years old and they were out partying, drinking and just being really loud,” Wassegijig said.
She said her lifestyle was different, and that people are really pushed to be “outgoing and a certain way” and it was different from what she was used to.
Wassegijig said if she had the opportunity in first year to be a part of an aboriginal floor plan, she would have done it.
Chantal Joy, director of student life programs at Humber College, said the concept of the aboriginal floor came from discussions with aboriginal student services about their desire to meet the housing needs of aboriginal students coming to Humber.
“Right now we’re planning for a community that may be as large as 15 people — based on what we know of the number of students in residence who are aboriginal and taking a guess as to what the interest might be,” Joy said.
She said they are taking applications for the aboriginal floor, officially titled the “Wigwamen” floor to see where the interest is.
Joy said they’re looking at the possibility of having a lounge on the aboriginal floor. Since the floor plan would be in partnership with the aboriginal student services, they would be able to have some programs that the Humber elder can deliver in-house and connect the community back to the aboriginal resource center.