Special to The Labradorian
Although she’s only months into her first year of studies at Memorial University, Kendra Pain of Nain has already made her mark on the university and is featured as one of the faces in a series of videos about a new pilot program that helps students adjust to life on campus.
First Year Success (FYS) targets first year students who have entrance averages between 70-75 per cent.
Pain says she heard about the program through her academic advisor, Chris Hibbs.
“When I called him this summer to talk about the courses I should take, he told me about it. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do but he told me this program will help you find that out,” said the 18-year-old in an interview.
An Inuk from Nain, Pain says her home community was a great place to grow up – a place where people know their neighbours; where classmates are close friends.
Like the majority of students coming to St. John’s from rural communities, Pain was concerned about the number of students that would be in her class and that she would have trouble getting to know them and making new friends.
“I worried I wouldn’t make social connections but the (FYS) program offers smaller class sizes. It helps you get closer to people. The course content involves you interacting and working with people and doing presentations. So you get to know them. Then you move on to other courses and bigger classes. And it’s not so scary.”
Pain said she heard a lot about the university from her high school teachers at Jens Haven Memorial, many of whom are Memorial graduates.
“They’d tell you about the good professors and the good classes. They’re very encouraging about their students going on to post-secondary education. And they’re very supportive about whatever it is you want to do.”
Pain also learned a great deal about Memorial from the university’s Aboriginal Resource Office coordinator, Sheila Freake.
Freake is also from Nain and taught elementary students for 10 years before moving on to a career with Memorial.
She was Pain’s Grade 4 teacher.
Part of Freake’s duties at Memorial is to visit schools and talk to students about the supports available to aboriginal students.
“She’d come and do presentations to different communities and when I heard her talk I began thinking, Memorial sounds good,” Pain recalls.
Freake says the FYS program helps students get to know their instructors and other students by offering additional instruction, academic and career advice and, in some instances, reduced class sizes.
“Anything that helps ease the transition is beneficial for students, especially for those coming from the smaller communities.”
The Aboriginal Resource Office not only supports aboriginal students but also advocates and educates the general university population regarding inclusion of all aboriginal people.
The office also provides information to potential students on accessing funding and scholarships.
Freake knows about the struggles and challenges that come with uprooting from a small community to move to St. John’s to study. She left Nain to study at Memorial as soon as she finished high school. The transition was a huge one, she says; the experience overwhelming.
“I was the only one who came out from our graduating class in Nain. However, when I came here in 1992, there was the Native Liaison Office run by the Nunatsiavut government and that was a huge support to me during my first year.”
It’s rewarding, she says, to see some of her former students come to Memorial and to have an opportunity to help them find their niche on campus.
“Besides the FYS program, our office is here to assist students with anything they may need assistance with. We are here to help them with the transition and to answer any questions they may have prior to them starting classes.”
High school students as well as Memorial students can access information through the Aboriginal Resource Office, Freake says.
“Some people believe that they can’t contact us until they are here on campus. But we talk to high school students as well to let them know about the supports we are here to offer them to make them successful students not only during the first year but during their whole time here at Memorial.”
Pain said she’d encourage students from all parts of the province – and particularly aboriginal students - to look at Memorial as an option for their post-secondary studies. “Don’t let the sheer size of the campus put you off,” she says.
“You don’t have to be scared to come to Memorial. You can do this program. They will help you and will answer any questions you have. They help you academically, too.”