Indigenous Awards drives support for OC students

By Public Affairs | February 24, 2021

Austin MacArthur
Austin MacArthur

Kamloops’ Austin MacArthur moved to Kelowna to attend Okanagan College’s Automotive Service Technician program to unlock a lifelong dream of becoming a mechanic – a dream fueled in part by the Irving K. Barber BC Scholarship Society’s Indigenous Student awards.

MacArthur is one of over 600 BC Indigenous students who shared more than $2.2 million in awards from the Society in support of post-secondary studies. The Society’s Indigenous Award program is one of six award programs and was created to assist in removing barriers to higher education for Indigenous peoples.

“I cannot explain how grateful I was to find out I was an award recipient,” says MacArthur. “The support from the Irving K. Barber Indigenous Award has enabled me to purchase a reliable laptop – a necessity for online learning – and most importantly it has taken the stress away of having to work while in school.”

The society offers renewable annual awards of $1,000 to $5,000 to students studying at all post-secondary levels – including trades training, apprenticeships, diplomas, certificates, undergraduate degrees and even masters, doctoral and teacher education studies. The awards are renewable in order to provide sustained funding over multiple years.

“Do your research about scholarships and bursary awards that are available,” advises MacArthur. “Even if you think you won’t get it, if you meet the eligibility, take the time to apply. You never know what could happen.”

His advice is echoed by Okanagan College School of Business student Saige Girouard, who received similar financial supports to complete her Bachelor of Business degree.

Saige Girouard

“I’ve been contemplating applying for these awards for four years before I finally did,” explains Girouard. “As a non-status Métis, I’ve always struggled with applying for Indigenous awards and the feeling I felt when I received my congratulatory letter for this award is unparalleled – to be recognized as an Indigenous person with academic success is a huge honour.”

The Society’s Indigenous Awards are available to students who identify as Indigenous, which the society defines as First Nations (Status or Non-Status), Métis or Inuit.

Girouard will be completing her Bachelor of Business Administration degree with Honours, a distinction she credits to the financial freedom from the Indigenous Award which allowed her to focus entirely on school. Girouard’s dream is to work with the government and be part of the change towards a genuine and sustained reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

“We know this Awards program makes a real difference in shaping the futures of Indigenous students,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training in a media release issued by the Irving K. Barber Society. “Every year, these funds help break down barriers for Indigenous students enabling recipients to become active participants in classrooms, in communities and eventually in B.C.’s economy by putting their knowledge and skills to good use.”

OC’s Computer Information Systems student David Tearoe and Education Assistant student Deanna Josephson couldn’t agree more. Both students enrolled at Okanagan College with the goal of changing their career paths, a goal that was assisted by the Indigenous Awards.

David Tearoe

Tearoe, a Keremeos local, has spent the last 12 years working in the floor installation industry and was able to confidently make the transition back to school to study his true passion, data analysis.

“Receiving this award was incredible and could not have come at a better time,” explains Tearoe. “Returning to school to switch careers is financially stressful and this award helped me mentally and financially transition to a sustainable, life-long career in my field of choice.”

Josephson worked in the social service field in Regina, Sask. for more than a decade before moving to Vernon. After starting her family and staying at home for a few years to raise her children, Josephson realized her desire to work with children as a career. She enrolled in the College’s Education Assistant program in Vernon to upgrade her skills and pursue a new career, allowing her to follow her passion of supporting children with special needs.

Deanna Josephson

“I am a mother to three children all under the age of six,” says Josephson. “This award has helped our family so much. It made returning to school a lot easier and I look forward to graduation when I can return to work with confidence in my new career.”

Since the awards inception, nearly $23 million has been distributed to BC students. Students can apply for awards in several categories – Indigenous Awards, International Scholarships, Transfer Scholarships and Women in Tech.

Applications for the 2021/22 Indigenous Awards will be accepted by the Society until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 30, 2021. Students looking to apply or find more information about the awards including eligibility and award renewals can visit the Society’s website,

Tags: Trades, Education Assistant, Okanagan School of Business, Computer Science



Sign up for weekly stories


Kinesiology student Kurt Albrechtsen
Meet Kurt Albrechtsen, Kinesiology student

March 4, 2021

Q: What’s your hometown? A: I’m from Williams Lake, located in the Cariboo region. Q: How did you end up at Okanagan College? A: I originally made my choice to come to OC by the recommendation of a friend who had attended previously and had a wonderful experience here. Q: How did you choose your program? A:  After playing rugby and soccer all through my life, and having experienced injuries from both, as well as other activities like mountain biking and boxing, I found that it was...

Xiaochen Yang, OC School of Business student
OC students get primed for financial success

February 16, 2021

A local partnership with a non-profit company, Launch Financial Education Society (Launch Okanagan), is powering up to help Okanagan College students boost their financial literacy this spring. Starting March 2, OC students will benefit from a free financial literacy program hosted online by Launch Okanagan. The Primer for Life series is an interactive, five-week program that offers students a chance to learn about their relationship with money, consumerism, budgeting, saving and credit. A number of Okanagan College Business students are al...

Experience OC Online
Experience OC takes post-secondary explorations virtual

February 5, 2021

Experience OC, from the safety of home. The College’s premiere participation event for prospective students is making the leap to the online world, with virtual Experience OC sessions launching next month. Starting Feb. 16, College professors will welcome prospective students, parents and employers in for program overviews or a glimpse of what a post-secondary classroom is like. Participants will get a first-hand look at the topics covered in these programs, including sustainability, Indigenous and technological issues facing the world tod...

Empowering Employment
Empowering Employment: College to host virtual employment fair in Feb

January 18, 2021

Okanagan College is powering up a new virtual employment fair next month to help connect students, alumni, job seekers in the community and employers from across the region. Empowering Employment is a virtual career fair to be held on Thursday, Feb. 4 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Anyone interested in attending as a job seeker or showcasing their business as an exhibitor can learn more at Exhibitor space, although virtual, is still limited and so interested organizations should plan to register soon to ensure their sp...