Making College Easier to Afford for Students from the Six Nations

March 23, 2023

Indigenous students from the Six Nations of the Grand River interested in going to college or university have access to a variety of supportive resources. The organization just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2022. 

Justine Henhawk-Bomberry, the director of post secondary services at the Grand River Post Secondary Education Office, has been helping Six Nations students since 1995, supporting them throughout their post secondary career and facilitating access to funding resources.

Justine says most of the students they support are enrolled in social science, education, humanities, and healthcare programs.

“We are really glad to have the funds from Grand Renewable Wind because it helps provide funding that students really need because of the cost of attending post secondary education…”

“Many years ago, several organizations in our community came together to create Vision 2020. Our community needed more of our people in the healthcare profession—everything from nurses, to doctors, to lab technicians. That was really important at that time so that group tried to figure out how they could get a certain number of health professionals graduated by 2020. We’re glad to see that our past students went into healthcare because of this initiative,” she says.

While those are the more popular programs, Justine says they have students enrolled in just about every field including engineering, math, science, law, and graphic design.

All Types of Programs

The Grand River Post Secondary Education Office helps to administer funding from Indigenous Services Canada. Through a Memorandum of Understanding with the council, the Office administers funds so students can attend post secondary programs in Ontario, across the country, and even internationally.

“The tuition costs are paid for them to attend undergraduate and postgraduate programs. If students are in programs where they require special equipment, we have funds available to help them cover those costs as well. If they require tutoring we also offer financial support for that too. We do encourage students to apply to other entities for scholarships and bursaries as well,” Justine says.

“We monitor and track where students are going to school. So some of the top schools they’re choosing to attend are Mohawk College, Brock University, McMaster University, Fanshawe College, Niagara College, Wilfred Laurier University, Western University, George Brown College, Queen’s University, and Six Nations Polytechnic which is an institution that we have here in the community,” she says.

The Cost of Education

While the GRPSEO receives funding from Indigenous Services Canada to distribute to students, the cost of post secondary education is more than just tuition. Through donations, they are able to support some of those additional costs that students incur through scholarships, like books and housing.

Last year’s poster advertising the GRPSEO’s scholarships and bursaries.

“We are really glad to have the funds from Grand Renewable Wind because it helps provide funding that students really need because of the cost of attending post secondary education,” Justine says.

Donations like these also give staff more time to dedicate to students as they used to hold fundraising events to help provide students with additional funding. More funds mean the ability to support more students.

“We not only have this scholarship but we have others that we administer through our office. Other entities have contributed funds as well. Overall, we could be supporting about 50 students who’ve applied for a scholarship,” she explains.

A Little Support Goes a Long Way

“We’ve also increased the education allowance that students receive from $800 per month to $1,000 per month because residence and meal plan fees alone are almost this much. This amount helps cover more of those expenses but not quite all of it,” Justine says.

Every donation, no matter the size, helps.

“Our weekly dress-down day for staff is another fundraiser we do. We contribute a dollar towards the scholarship every week and that’s been going on forever,” she says.

GRPSEO board members celebrating 30 years.

Each year, Justine and her team engage with hundreds of students who are planning to attend college or university for the first time or continuing their education.

“Overall, we could be supporting more than 600 students per year depending on how many are approved. Sometimes we see over a thousand students apply,” she says.

The GRPSEO celebrated 30 years last fall.

To learn more about the Grand River Post Secondary Education office, visit their website HERE.