Student Learning

Scholarship helps indigenous student inspire youth in her community

Candice Loring
Photo: Darren Hull

Candice Loring, UBC Okanagan’s newest Ch’nook Scholar, says finding the financial support can be one of the biggest barriers to post-secondary education for Indigenous students.

“In my community I’m lucky to be one of 31 students who have post-secondary funding,” she says.

The mother of two boys and fourth-year management student is only the third UBC Okanagan student to be awarded a Ch’nook Scholarship.

In 2014, the Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education Initiative recognized the top 17 Indigenous undergraduate and graduate management students from post-secondary schools across B.C. and Alberta. The program aims to help grow business capacity and development within Aboriginal communities.

Candice is also president of UBC Okanagan’s Indigenous Student Association and hopes to inspire other Indigenous students to go to university.

“I want to tell all the youth in my community that they can do it,” she says. “I want to take them to UBC to see how attainable their dreams are.”

Growing up in the small community of Kitwanga, B.C., Candice remembers being one of the only visibly First Nations students in her school. Faced with negative stereotypes and prejudice, she began to doubt herself. By Grade 10 she quit school and began working in a gas station and then a restaurant. She thought getting a university degree could never be a possibility.

Yet Candice never gave up her dream of being a positive role model for her children and her community. At 27, with two young children at home, and as nervous as can be, she began studying through UBC Okanagan’s Aboriginal Access Studies program.

But just months into her studies—and just as exams were getting underway—her mother was diagnosed with cancer and died two weeks later. Candice was devastated. Instead of turning back and burying herself in grief, however, she was more determined than ever to finish her education.

Through Access Studies, she enrolled in an introduction to management course and found that she felt not only supported as an Indigenous student, but appreciated and valued for her unique viewpoint.

Now a fourth-year student, she continues to enjoy her studies and has a new dream—to give back to her community by working in Indigenous governance and economic development and help Aboriginals realize their dreams.

Ch’nook Scholars engage Aboriginal youth through a “Cousin Event” where they speak to students in grades 9 through 12 about business studies as a pathway. Candice spent a day on campus with 16 high school students, talking to them about her experience studying at UBC and providing guidance with filling out scholarship and bursary applications.

Candice says studying at UBC has made her hopeful for the next generation of Aboriginal students.

“I think within my lifetime we’re going to see major changes,” says Candice. “We have more Indigenous students going to university, and with each generation the possibilities are just endless.”