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Endowment fund to help U of L First Nations students

By Simmons, Garrett


University of Lethbridge alumnus Richard Masson (BMgt ’87) understands the financial pressures that students face. He and his family are looking to ease some of these burdens through the creation of an endowment fund and scholarship award that will support students for years to come.

The Masson Family Endowment and Masson Family First Nations Transition Program Award, announced as the U of L celebrates its annual Native Awareness Week, are designed to both support the university’s First Nations Transition Program (FNTP) as well as individual FNTP students.

“I started with pretty meager financial resources, so I’m a big believer in helping students out financially,” said Masson, the chief executive officer at the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission. “Thankfully, I’ve been very fortunate in my career, thanks in part to the start I got at the U of L.”

The First Nations Transition Program assists incoming students, or students returning to university education after an absence, in making a smooth transition to life at the U of L. By connecting Aboriginal and university cultures, this program aims to increase access to post-secondary education and completion rates for First Nations, MŽtis and Inuit students.

Maria Livingston, a third-year student majoring in Native American Studies, successfully completed the FNTP program in 2011 and has since gone on to mentor other FNTP students.

“I was out of high school for four years before I decided to look into university – it was intimidating and I wasn’t sure I’d be successful,” she said. “FNTP helped me feel comfortable at the university and gave me the foundation I needed to carry on and pursue a degree.”

The Masson Family Endowment will award an annual scholarship for a promising student who has successfully completed the one-year transition program, and also help to fund various aspects of the FNTP, including a speaker series, workshops and materials such as laptop computers.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for First Nations students to become strong leaders in their communities,” said Masson. “That’s something I want to support.”

Dr. Michelle Hogue (MEd ’04), U of L professor and co-ordinator of the FNTP, said the endowment and award will promote post-secondary education among First Nations people, and ultimately help many FNMI students and communities.

“The award is a celebration of student success,” said Hogue. “It’s a tremendous honour to receive a scholarship for academic work, so not only will the award help students financially, it will help them believe in themselves as well. It will encourage retention and foster mentors for new First Nations students down the line.”

The recipient of the inaugural Masson Family First Nations Transition Program Award will be chosen this spring.

“We’re really excited and thankful to be able to help others find their path,” said Masson. “That’s what this is all about.”

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