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Bigger plans, fewer barriers The impact of the TD Scholarship for Indigenous Peoples
• May 30, 2024

The TD Scholarship for Indigenous Peoples program was launched in 2022 to support the unique needs of students from Indigenous communities.

Now in its second full year, the scholarship program has selected 25 recipients for 2024, including students from First Nation, Inuit, and Métis communities from across Canada. Many of these students face systemic barriers that can make getting a post-secondary education difficult.

"We are proud to play a role in supporting students from Indigenous communities in their journeys towards achieving their academic and career ambitions," said Doris Bear, Vice President of Indigenous Banking at TD.

"It is also our privilege to help connect them with employment opportunities under the program, as well as make our terrific network of colleagues and leaders available to them as part of this experience."

Created in collaboration with AFOA Canada, a not-for-profit led by Indigenous Peoples, the scholarship program offers each successful applicant $15,000 per year for up to four years to cover tuition costs and living expenses. Recipients are also offered internship opportunities with TD to gain valuable work experience and receive an offer of full-time employment after the successful completion of their studies.

"The TD Scholarship for Indigenous Peoples can help transform the lives of students and is also an investment in the future of Indigenous communities," said Terry Goodtrack, President and CEO of AFOA Canada.

"This scholarship program helps empower the student recipients to pursue a positive future for themselves and their communities."

To learn more about the TD Scholarship for Indigenous Peoples program and the impact it is having on the lives of students, we spoke to three of the 2024 recipients to learn more about their backgrounds, their studies, and what this TD scholarship means to them.

Shera Wysote

Listuguj, Quebec

Shera Wysote is usually a culinary arts educator at her 300-student community school in Listuguj Miꞌgmaq First Nation.

But this school year, she took on a new challenge: teaching Grade 8.

“We were a little short staffed this year,” Wysote says. “So, I ended up being a Grade 8 teacher, even though I’ve never done that before.”

Wysote, who is Mi’gmaq, is also a mom to three kids, who are 16, 13, and 8.

On top of teaching and parenting, Wysote is enrolled in an online Master of Education program in sustainability, creativity and innovation at Cape Breton University.

Through her program, she’s exploring how to evolve and decolonize her school’s curriculum to provide her students with better Indigenized education.

“This scholarship award is a big help. My program is very project based, so this scholarship will help me get the resources I need to put these projects together,” she says.

Wysote’s school has a land-based classroom, where kids learn outside all day. In the school’s outdoor education building, students do woodworking and receive lessons on how to prepare the animals they harvest.

“I'm a culinary arts teacher, so I team up with outdoor education, and when [the students] harvest different kinds of meats, I show them how to cook it and store it,” she says.

Simply reading about Mi’gmaq practices and traditions isn’t the same as getting hands-on experience, but there’s no written or formalized curriculum to follow for these land-based programs, Wysote says.

“I just want to be able to put my knowledge of Indigenous ways of knowing and being to better use when it comes to … changing the curriculum. That's my biggest goal and I need my degree to be one of those decision-makers.”

Juggling all her responsibilities can be a challenge, Wysote says. She has coordinated one of the biggest Pow Wows in Atlantic Canada every summer for the last six years, but she recently passed on the responsibility to someone else.

To stay on top of schoolwork, Wysote uploads her readings into a software program that turns text into audio. She pops on her headphones and listens to her readings while doing chores around her home or during breaks from teaching.

“It’s almost like listening to a podcast,” she says.

Cailen Davis
Membertou, Nova Scotia

Cailen Davis just finished his second year at Saint Francis Xavier University in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where he studies business and plays on the football team.

“This TD scholarship is a huge stepping stone to my career and my future. It's going to, I think, change my life in many ways,” Davis says.

“I plan on going pretty far in my life. This scholarship will definitely be a big help to me.”

Davis is Mi’kmaw from the Membertou First Nation located on Unama’ki — the name for Cape Breton Island in Mi’kmaw.

His father was taken from his family at birth during the Sixties Scoop and adopted out to a non-Indigenous family. Many years later, he found his way back to his Indigenous community.

For Davis, reconciling his family’s different life experiences has meant embracing the Mi'kmaw concept of Two-Eyed Seeing.

“My dad actually [introduced me] to that concept,” he says. “And my mom has also talked about it too from a pretty young age.”

Two-Eyed Seeing is crucial for accepting the past’s uncomfortable truths, while taking responsibility for creating the future you want, Davis says.

He leans on the concept to find the discipline and perspective he needs to complete schoolwork, get through football practice, and manage any mental and physical challenges that come his way.

When he graduates, Davis wants to work in investments and assets. He’s already started investing in the stock market alongside his two older brothers.

“I just really like how you can see trends in markets and businesses,” he says.

When he’s not in school, Davis is usually wading into the water along the shores of the Margaree and Baddeck Rivers, fishing for trout and salmon with his dad and brothers.

Classes, football, and responsibilities make life busy, Cailen says. Busy and sometimes loud.

“Fishing is kind of an escape from all of it,” he says. “It’s quiet and very peaceful for me.”

Davis has big goals and plans for his life, including the chance to travel and bring what he learns back to his community.

“I love Cape Breton. It's always going to be my home for my whole life,” he says. “But I've always wanted to get out and see the world as much as I can, but eventually come back.”

This summer, Davis is undertaking a TD learning and development internship in the human resources department.

Saskia-Mae Livingstone
Métis Nation of Alberta, Alberta

When asked to describe the law school experience, Saskia-Mae Livingstone uses words like intense and overwhelming. She’s just wrapped up her first year of the Juris Doctor program at the University of Calgary.

“I think I’m learning to get used to being really uncomfortable and just not knowing everything and being okay with that,” says Livingstone, who is Métis.

Given how rigorous her studies are, Livingstone is grateful for the increased financial stability she’ll get from this TD scholarship. A part-time job to cover a portion of tuition or living expenses might be possible during an undergraduate degree, but not during law school, she says.

“My family is not in a position to help out financially with my schooling. The scholarship covers most of my tuition,” Livingstone says. “It's been a huge relief for the coming school years—not having to stress so much.”

Livingstone was born in England and spent the first few years of her life in Japan. She always knew she was Métis, but she didn’t have opportunities to connect with her ancestry.

Moving to Calgary at the age of 8 offered Livingstone a chance to understand more about what it means to be an Indigenous person in Canada, learn about her grandmother’s traumatic experience in the residential school system, and explore her connections to the land.

When her mother enrolled in a social work program, Livingstone was connected with Elders, youth groups, and community organizations from Indigenous communities— all of which helped her further explore and understand her identity.

“That's really how I learned a lot about my community and reconnected,” she says. “It was clarifying in a sense.”

Wherever her career as a lawyer takes her, Livingstone hopes she’ll have opportunities to take on pro-bono work to support Indigenous Peoples and communities.

“Doing Indigenous-focused work, I think will always be something that I value. So, whether I do [that] in my work or in more of a pro bono or volunteer capacity, I will always pursue that,” she says.

On breaks from demanding law school classes, Livingstone heads for the nearby Rocky Mountains, which are a quick 45-minute drive from Calgary.

“I think that's a big way I connect to my Indigeneity as a person,” she says. “I love to rock climb outside. That’s my favourite hobby of the summer. I love to backcountry ski in the winter. And I don't know, food just tastes better outside.”

Learn more about the TD Scholarship for Indigenous Peoples program.

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