A house is more than just a place to reside. It’s a space to build community, to bring people together – in other words, it’s a home.
That sense of ‘home’ is what the Native Education Counselling Unit has been providing to Métis, Inuit and First Nations students for more than 20 years – not only those at Dalhousie, but those from other post-secondary institutions across Halifax. The unit offers educational and support services, and is also there to simply provide an attentive ear when needed.
And now, after years of moving through various locations on campus, it finally has a house to call home.
On Wednesday, the unit celebrated the opening of its new location at 6286 South Street, on the second floor of the house that also hosts the Dalhousie Women’s Centre. Newly painted and redecorated, the space feels welcoming, inviting and comfortable – perfect for doing schoolwork, meeting with the unit’s counselling staff or just relaxing. The opening ceremony also included a drum circle performance outside on the house’s lawn.
Don Julien, executive director of The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq—of which the Native Education Counselling Unit is a division—was on hand to help cut the ceremonial ribbon.
“They’ve done a wonderful job on the painting...looks like [Boston] Bruins’ colours,” he said with a laugh.
A home away from home
“This is a great place for students to meet, discuss their studies or just hang out and have a good time,” he continued. “Sometimes students that come from First Nations communities are not all that familiar with city life. We hope this offers a home away from home for them.”
Lauretta Sylliboy is a counsellor with the unit. She explains that some students just want to drop by and visit, while others come seeking help to deal with the what she calls the “culture shock” of moving to Halifax from all across Canada.
“Inuit, Métis and First Nations students can often feel isolated,” she explains. “We try and make them feel welcome and relaxed here, supporting them as best we can and getting them connected with the right people to help them work through any issues they might be having.”
Carolyn Watters, Dalhousie’s vice-president academic and provost, was on-hand to celebrate the opening as well. She mentioned that Dalhousie has more than 200 students from native communities, and that the university sees them as vital contributors to campus culture; next Tuesday, for example, Dal will host its second annual mawio’mi–or ‘pow wow’—open to all on campus to attend.
“It’s certainly our goal to bring a higher profile to Aboriginal students,” she said. “We welcome their participation here at the unit and across campus, and are working to support their success here at Dalhousie.”
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