Continuing with our Aboriginal Pathways series, these two students are participants in programs offered by the Aboriginal Initiatives Office at Nipissing University. Their journeys and experiences have been different yet this Office has helped connect them with others and get involved in the Nipissing community.
Tory Fisher is from Nipissing First Nation. He is already a graduate of the university as he received his Native Studies and Social Welfare degree last year and is currently working toward completing his Bachelor of Education from which he will graduate this year.
Fisher chose Nipissing because of the small classes and during his time there has learned that the professors go above and beyond to help their students succeed. Fisher hopes to emulate the same kind of values when he becomes a teacher and role model.
“I want to be a part of helping future students grow and learn,” he said.
It seems that not only do his professors go above and beyond, but Fisher does as well by getting involved in his local and school community. The Aboriginal Initiatives Office has provided Fisher many different opportunities to get involved with and he has seized them. He said he was fortunate enough to participate in cultural and welcoming events at the university. By singing and drumming at various other events, such as graduations or arrivals of special guests, he feels he is also able to give back to the school that he loves.
Already on track to becoming an educator, Fisher is no stranger to teaching others new things. Providing dance demonstrations and lessons for new students in the Ojibwe language has allowed him to interact with others in a meaningful way by sharing his culture.
In his local community, Fisher is an active member as last year he was chosen to be a part of the working committee for the Nipissing First Nations’ Constitution (Chi- Naaknigewin).
“I was so proud that our community voted ‘yes’ and agreed on having a constitution, which we are now exercising our own First Nation right to sovereignty,” he explained. “It was a very proud day for me as well as my community.”
Jenna Demers has also almost completed her Bachelor of Education at Nipissing. She first earned her Bachelor of Arts, Honours degree in English Studies from Nipissing as well. She knew that Nipissing was the right place for her when she went on a campus tour. Not only did she find herself surrounded in beautiful scenery but everyone there was so approachable and kind.
“The best part was that the friendly, welcoming, familial feel never diminished,” she exclaimed. “After five years as a Nipissing student, I am proud to say I know all of my professors by their first names, and every single one of them has spent office hours listening to me.”
Demers is very involved in the Nipissing community as she does work with the Aboriginal Student Links Program offered through the Aboriginal Initiatives Office, where she works with youth attending nearby high schools. She also is a tutor and essay editor for other students with her school’s Peer Academic Leaders Program. In addition to all this, Demers is the Indigenous Director for the Nipissing University Student Union and occasionally writes for their student journal, NuSense. In the past she has organized an after-school theatre program and then an after- school homework and games club for the Children’s Aid Society through Nipissing’s Biidaaban Community Service-Learning.
Moving forward, Demers has her sights set on working in isolated northern communities. She has developed an interest in leadership and free programming for Aboriginal Youth throughout her education.
“I have this idea of starting a free theatre program in northern communities. Theatre has been a passion of mine since elementary school, and I have seen it do amazing things for many people,” she explained. “I think the best thing about being a part of a theatre production is the fact that you can escape reality, if only for an hour or two, and that’s not a bad thing; sometimes we get tired of reality, and we need that break.”