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ASAP students get summer start on university

Posted on 2018-08-23 in Students & Campus Life, Indigenous

Shawnee Wason runs to hand off a homemade travois to Nahoni Tootoosis. The Aug. 23 relay race was a team-building exercise for students entering the College of Arts and Science's Aboriginal Student Achievement Program this fall.

By Chris Putnam

Under the August afternoon sun, teams of students raced around the Bowl dragging odd-looking structures, occasionally spilling their cargo of empty soda bottles.

It was not a traditional introduction to campus life, but Monday’s travois building challenge gave its participants a taste of the teamwork and problem solving that will see them through their university careers.

The activity capped off the first day of ASAP Summer Start, a one-week orientation camp offered this year for the first time to all students entering the Aboriginal Student Achievement Program (ASAP) in the College of Arts and Science.

“It was definitely an icebreaker, so I definitely recommend it,” said Marcia Little, an incoming student from Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation. “As an Aboriginal person and a first-year student, I think it’s really important to take advantage of these programs.”

Travois building
Joseph Soosay works with his teammates to assemble a makeshift travois out of tape and wooden poles.

The core of ASAP is its community of students, who grow close during the school year through shared classes, peer mentorship and cultural experiences. The summer camp is about giving students a head start on building those bonds, said Sandy Bonny, coordinator of ASAP.

“Starting that off before they even come to their classes is a really positive experience. When they arrive at the start of term, they already have a community of peers and a commitment to learning with those peers.”

A similar ASAP summer program has been offered for the last two years, but it was limited to students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) paths. In an exercise last fall, ASAP students were challenged to pitch an idea that would improve the experience of first-year students.

The winning pitch: expand the summer camp to include all ASAP students.

“It was a student idea, and we’ve run with it,” said Bonny.

This year, students choose between two streams within the camp—one focused on STEM and the other on social sciences, humanities and fine arts. Between introductory lectures and labs in their subjects of interest, the two groups come together for campus tours, academic coaching, team building activities and sessions with Elders.

The camp’s STEM stream was further expanded this year through a sponsorship by Husky Energy. The new programming includes the Husky Math Lab, a math readiness course that launched this week and will continue through the academic year.

Other partners on ASAP Summer Start are the College of Engineering and SaskPower. SCI-FI Summer Camps hosted the children of ASAP Summer Start participants for free during the week.

Nahoni Tootoosis
Nahoni Tootoosis runs the last leg of her team's relay race on Aug. 23.

Little said she signed up for the camp “just to become more familiar with what the campus has so I can be more comfortable and confident.”

ASAP student Nahoni Tootoosis from North Battleford said she “didn’t really know where to start with university,” but she knew the summer camp would help.

“It’s a nice experience,” said Tootoosis after the first day of ASAP Summer Start. “A lot of learning, a lot of walking, a lot of touring and I’ve made a couple friends already.”


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