BCIT Indigenous Student Champions: Supporting peers on their educational journey

Desmand King moved from Manitoulin Island, Ontario, to British Columbia when his mother relocated for work in 1996. It was after relocating to BC that he started a career driving trucks and operating cranes in the trucking industry. Desmand has always wanted to become a professional video game designer so after a decade in the trucking industry, he decided to go back to school to support that career pivot. He completed the Applied Software Development Certificate program at the BCIT Downtown Campus in 2019 and now he is enrolled in the Digital Design and Development program.

Mi Chap Tukw, the Indigenous Gathering: A home away from home

As a proud Anishinaabe, Desmand is keen to share and talk about his Indigenous heritage with those around him. During his first day on the BCIT Burnaby Campus, Desmand discovered the Indigenous Gathering Place.

Mi Chap Tukw, the Indigenous Gathering Place is a welcoming and safe space for students, families, and staff to come together to celebrate the diversity and richness of the Indigenous culture. For Desmand, the Indigenous Gathering Place is a home away from home and provides a sense of inclusion and belonging for him and his peers. Indigenous students have access to holistic resources and services that support them during their journey at BCIT and beyond.

However, due to the pandemic, there was a period where the Indigenous Gathering Place and the Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships team were only accessible virtually. It was during this time that Desmand developed a close connection with Zaa Joseph, Advisor, Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships.

“Desmand participated in a lot of events,” says Zaa. “Desmand’s dedication to the Indigenous Gathering Place and his warm personality earned him the position as one of three BCIT Indigenous Student Champions.”

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Being an Indigenous Student Champion

An Indigenous Student Champion is a guide and a knowledgeable resource that assists fellow students (Indigenous mentee) in developing strategies to succeed in their post-secondary education. They are a senior student, second semester and above, who is available to give their time and apply their skills to positively impact a new student’s post-secondary experience.

Indigenous Student Champions started as a pilot mentorship program in 2011. The BCIT Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships team knew there was a desire for students to connect with peers where they could share Indigenous knowledge and lived shared experiences. The Indigenous Student Champions program answers this need and builds a community connecting Indigenous students at BCIT. The program has been very successful and it great to see the relationship that develop between the Champion and the mentee – many which last beyond BCIT.

Zaa adds, “Indigenous Student Champions also connect with Indigenous students to inspire and encourage the sharing of stories – here is my pathway, here’s what I’ve been through, and here’s some pitfalls to watch out for.”

Outside of his role as an Indigenous Student Champion, Desmand serves as Indigenous Councilor with BCIT Student Association and is completing his second year in the Digital Design and Development program.

Desmand shares that he would eventually like to open up his own gaming studio and hopes to bring on like-minded Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborators in order to create interactive and successful narrative-based games.

The Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships team offers holistic resources and services in supporting students, Indigenization, and Reconciliation. Learn more about BCIT Indigenous Initiatives and Partnerships, including the Indigenous Gathering Place.

SEE MORE: More than just a job: how a BCIT alumna is amplifying Indigenous voices and stories

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