St. Thomas University offers courses at First Nations community

ELSIPOGTOG, N.B. – Aboriginal students say a new program giving them the option to study university courses at home is encouraging them to seek post-secondary education.

The program is a partnership between St. Thomas University and Elsipogtog First Nation. Under the program, students can take first-year math and English classes at home.

When students have completed the courses they can transfer to the university’s Bachelor of Arts program.

Karlee Augustine is one of the program’s 15 students and says the opportunity to study at home helps her focus on her work.

“That’s why I was scared of going away,” she said, noting she even considered staying home and not going to school.

“My dad mentioned the program and I was really happy.”

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Her father, Mark Augustine, holds a degree from the university and says it’s a positive move for the next generation.

“Aboriginal communities are so family-oriented and when they leave the community they get lonesome regardless if you’re 19 or 20 years old,” he said.

The community’s chief, Aaron Sock, says a good first-year is key to their success.

“You’re such a close-knit community that’s what you’re used to so when you go off the community it’s bit of a culture shock,” he said.

On Tuesday, St. Thomas University’s president Dawn Russell was at the school to give each student an official university pin.

She says post-secondary studies gives more of a rounded education.

“It’s important that First Nations communities here in New Brunswick and across the country become educated,” she said. “They are prepared to lead others in their community and give them what they need to be independent.”

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