“[Scholarships like this] help build self-confidence in the awarded individuals and show you that you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.”

Izaak Wapachee, business student, University of Guelph-Humber

On Monday, Nov. 15, IGNITE and Humber Indigenous Education & Engagement (IE&E) awarded the very first iteration of our annual Indigenous Scholarship.

To be distributed every winter, this award grants $1000 to each of five Indigenous students at Humber College or UofGH. Winning students will also demonstrate leadership and community involvement.

We implemented this scholarship because the IGNITE community is incredibly lucky to include brilliant Indigenous members. So we’re putting our money where our mouth is and funding your future.

A feminine person in red clothing dances excitedly next to the words, "You deserve this!"

So, with that said, we’d like to extend a gigantic congratulations to this year’s scholarship recipients! The four winners who consented to be named are:

  • Izaak Wapachee, business student at the University of Guelph-Humber
  • Shyla Halls, second-year massage therapy student at Humber College
  • Michael Jenkins, fourth-year public relations student at Humber College
  • Morgan Pannunzio, third-year Bachelor of Music student at Humber College

After we gave out the awards, three of these students gave us the chance to ask them a few questions. We talked about their educational journeys and post-grad aspirations. They also gave their advice for future students.

Here’s what they had to say:

In your opinion, how will this award help you achieve your career and post-graduation aspirations?

Wapachee: This award is an important lesson in my journey of understanding my self-worth. It has helped me build my confidence and has shown me that I can accomplish and earn anything I put my mind, body and soul into. In any career, a healthy understanding of self-worth is necessary and this is a great practice at that. I am an aspiring businessman in the Indigenous financial sector and this accomplishment has shown me that hard work pays off. Post-graduation, I want to work with Indigenous artists as well; and this award has taught me more about the procurement of funds to empower individuals in terms of where to look and how to access them. 

Halls: This IGNITE scholarship will help me achieve my goals and expand my career opportunities. I plan on using this and putting it towards certifications and workshops to further my massage therapy knowledge. With having these certifications, I can become a better professional and provide the best care for my patients. 

Jenkins: For my final year, I have been spending a lot more time working on final projects; and receiving this award allows me to decrease the amount of hours I am working at my part-time job. 

What role did your family and community play in your educational journey and ability to earn this scholarship?

Wapachee: My parents are my biggest inspirations in my educational endeavours. And, they have been super helpful in pushing me to shoot for the stars.

My mother was only able to get through school at the University of Toronto by getting high marks and applying for scholarships [because] she did not have any financial support from her family. Her drive and wisdom has demonstrated that scholarships are important accomplishments. [They have also demonstrated] that committing yourself to getting high marks is the way to go.

My father went to UofT as well. He graduated with honours [with] little-to-no support [from] his parents. He showed me that giving back to the communities you are a part of [plays] a huge role in school and life; and this has pushed me to follow in his footsteps.

My community, Ouje-Bougoumou, pushes me to achieve higher knowledge in order to bring that back to them and better the living of myself and others. They have been super supportive and have helped cover some of the costs that come with being in school. I am forever in debt to them [because] this has allowed me to grow and learn a tremendous amount about myself and the world at large.

Halls: My family has always been a big role within my life and schooling opportunities. I am the first in my family to attend post-secondary and advance my education. With that being said, my community played a role as they also provided financial aid to make it possible to be at Humber today. 

Jenkins: My family and community have always pushed me to go further and to do my best. They have given me the confidence I needed to further my search for financial support, resulting in receiving this award. 

Why do you think scholarships like this are important?  

Wapachee: Scholarships like this are important for many reasons. Firstly, they help to alleviate some of the financial stress that being in school brings about. This allows the student to focus more on the task of educating themselves versus stressing over finances.

Secondly, as previously mentioned, they help build self-confidence in the awarded individuals and show you that you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take. It is a huge honour to have scholarships bestowed upon you and it should ignite a fire in anyone who gets them to continue building upon yourself.

Finally, [they build] perseverance. You will not get every scholarship you apply for and, therefore, it makes the accomplishment of achieving them even more important. Having perseverance is an important skill to have in life and this is one way to build it. 

Halls: A scholarship like this is so important to many individuals. With some of us not being able to attend college because financial need is a factor, this scholarship can help relieve that fear.

Jenkins: I believe scholarships like this give students the opportunity to focus on studies. And, [they] ease the amount of stress that comes from financial distress.

What effect(s) do you think this scholarship, and others like it, will have on future Humber and UofGH students?

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by University of Guelph-Humber (@guelphhumber)

Wapachee: I think this scholarship will have a lasting positive effect on the individuals awarded. It is a great honour to achieve. And, speaking for myself, it’s one of my biggest accomplishments thus far on my academic journey…This scholarship gives Indigenous students something to aim for while in school—other than getting high marks—and is a way of acknowledging hard work and efforts. I am hyper-appreciative to have achieved this award. And I would like to give a big thank-you to all of you at IGNITE and IE&E for bestowing this honour upon me! 

Halls: The effects of this scholarship are huge as they can open many doors for students like myself. This can give them additional experiences, help them realize that college isn’t as bad as people [make] it seem, build a better networking status and so much more!

Jenkins: Future students receiving this award will benefit physically. Although studies are very important, there is also a financial responsibility students face that is not always easy to navigate around. 

Once again, on behalf of IGNITE, congratulations to this year’s Indigenous scholarship recipients! We can’t wait to see where your journey takes you next.  

A person with long hair throws confetti in front of a silver background and smiles.

*These interviews have been edited for length and clarity*

Want more from your fellow students? Check out IGNITE’s profile on Humber College Esports: your on-campus hub for all things video games!

Follow IGNITE on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for all things student life.