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UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 8 | Aug. 7, 2003

Reaching out to Aboriginal High School Students

Forestry camp is a first for UBC

By Brian Lin

Aboriginal high school students from across B.C. are at UBC this week for the first-ever aboriginal youth forestry camp.

Aimed at demystifying the role of natural resource managers and professional foresters, the Summer Forestry Camp for First Nations Youth, taking place August 4-10, brings 25 First Nations youth in Grades 8 and 9 to the Point Grey campus.

Participants will also spend three days at UBC’s Malcolm Knapp Research Forest in Maple Ridge to learn about the practical application of math and science in forestry and natural resource management.

“This summer camp is an innovative way for us to reach out to aboriginal high school students who are considering post-secondary education,” says Gordon Prest, First Nations co-ordinator at the Faculty of Forestry. “There has been a serious shortage of First Nations people in our faculty.”

Prior to 1994, only three aboriginal students are known to have graduated from the faculty. Since then, 20 aboriginal students have received Forestry degrees. There are currently 18 undergraduate and two PhD students of aboriginal ancestry in the faculty.

Prest says part of the problem is that few aboriginal students are graduating from high school with the necessary academic pre-requisites to enter science-related programs.

“Traditionally school counsellors tend to steer First Nations students towards arts and teaching,” says Prest. “In recent years, more students are venturing into social work and law, but there is still a shortage of First Nations students in sciences.”

Prest says forestry presents many new opportunities for First Nations people, despite the common misconception that it is a sunset industry.

“We are tackling these problems at the root by offering a fun way for students to learn both about forestry and the importance of math and science to it.”

The faculty will monitor participants’ progress through high school and will work closely with student recruitment to offer any additional support needed through the admission process. It will also address issues such as bursary and future career options.

There is strong demand for forestry professionals with an aboriginal background, says Trish Osterberg, project co-ordinator for the summer camp and a recent graduate of the faculty.

“There is a trend to combine traditional aboriginal forestry practices and modern technology,” says Osterberg, a member of the Sto:lo Nation. “Aboriginal forestry graduates have their work cut out for them in areas such as forestry policy changes and treaty negotiations.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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