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Scholarship makes education a reality for those in need
Students who received the prestigious Belcourt Brosseau Métis Award will be one step closer to achieving their academic dreams.
“It’s very difficult to describe how much this means to me,” said 18-year-old Matthew Hiltermann. “School is really something I wouldn’t be able to do without this award.”
Hiltermann has been given $5,000 to finish his degree at the University of Calgary in socio-anthropology. He is one of 117 recipients receiving a Belcourt Brosseau Métis Award this year.
The awards, which were handed out on Sept.25 at an awards gala in Edmonton, are granted to students who excel academically, demonstrate financial need, and are involved in the Aboriginal community.
The scholarship fund was started by Orval and Herb Belcourt and Georges Brosseau to help Métis people succeed in education. Brosseau is a lawyer, Orval a social worker and advocate, and Herb, a successful businessman who was recently named to the Order of Canada.
Their goal was to help people such as Hiltermann. His dad has cerebral palsy, making it hard to bring in a steady income for the family. “It’s very difficult for him to provide the little things let alone university,” said Hiltermann.
Hiltermann, who has been working as a guide at the Hudson Bay Fort at Heritage Park in Calgary for the last few years, is also trying to raise awareness about Métis culture.
“It’s a very good opportunity to share culture and the historical context and what it means to be Métis,” he said. Close to three quarters of the Hudson’s Bay employees were Métis.
Hiltermann said the scholarship will help him further explore his roots and his identity since he hopes to make Métis culture a major part of his academic focus.
“Despite being one of the larger Aboriginal groups in Canada, the Métis seem to be forgotten,” he said. “There is a lot of misunderstanding. Even the definition is unclear and misunderstood.”
Erin Calihoo, a past-recipient, said the Belcourt Brosseau Métis Award helped her achieve her dreams of being a TV editor.
She now works at City TV. “It’s completely changed my life and I’m so grateful,” she said. “I would not have been able to pay for my first year of college”.
Calihoo said it’s special to stand with so many successful Métis recipients. “I want to show that you can be Métis and still do a lot with your life,” she said.
In the last nine years the scholarship fund has enabled 600 Alberta Métis people to receive post-secondary education for a total of $3.3 million, said Theresa Majeran, communications co-ordinator of the awards.
Recipients at the awards banquet received a traditional Métis sash.
“Historically the sash was used to tie up broken items, carry babies, hold pants up, you name it, as Métis people were making their way across the prairies. Today it symbolizes Métis pride and resilience,” said Majeran.
“All of a sudden their chests are out, they are shaking hands, and they are like cousins. The minute that sash is on they just flip and become these proud people,” she said.
The amount of the awards ranges between $2,000 and $9,000.
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