On this National Indigenous Peoples Day, Pathways is grateful for Indigenous staff members like Mars, who make students feel valued and welcome in our program locations across the country. Pathways also recognizes the crucial importance of listening to Indigenous students and enriching the program based on their perspective.
In her spare time, Mars plays the big drum at pow-wows, weddings, and other community events. For her, it’s a profound way to engage with her Indigenous heritage. She explains that colonization has left limited ways for youth to learn about their culture and history while growing up. In her case, a challenging situation at home meant that traditions were not passed on through family. That’s why culturally competent programs like Pathways were important to Mars. “I learned a lot about my own culture at Pathways,” Mars explains. “The program incorporated Indigenous culture, like the Seven Teachings: love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth.”
The inclusion of Indigenous knowledge into the Pathways Program helped Mars go through high school in a context that valued her culture, and the knowledge and histories associated with it. It also gave her a place to talk about her lived experience. “We talked about heavier topics like bullying, discrimination, racism, and mental health,” Mars shares. “I grew up around all of this, so I wanted to talk about it; I was interested in it. Pathways welcomed that.”
The commitment to inclusion at the heart of Pathways Winnipeg’s work made it easier for Mars to access short-term supports she needed, like food and transportation. “Asking for help can feel like a struggle for students in low-income communities,” Mars explains. “But at Pathways, I met caring and loving Indigenous people who could help. It felt safe to check in and hang out, have a meal, or do homework.”
With the help of these supports, Mars graduated from high school and has recently returned to Pathways Winnipeg as a staff member. In this role, she provides students with key supports in a context that values their heritage. What’s even more exciting, she explains, is that this program location is adapting to the many young newcomers who have joined since she was a student herself. “The students I work with really want to appreciate both Indigenous culture and other newcomer cultures,” Mars shares. “I’m so happy they brought those newcomer cultures up—I want to celebrate every student in the program!”
Including Indigenous life and culture in our program is one more way to bring high school students closer to graduation. That, and so much more, is what your support makes possible. Keep up with the Pathways Program and the people who make it a reality: