11:07 AM

Momentum - "I learned I could"

Mohawk’s Pathfinder program connects Indigenous youth to higher education

Caroline Hill found her way to Mohawk College thanks to the Pathfinder program.

The program engages with Indigenous youth, to teach them about their culture and to equip them to pursue postsecondary education.

“Pathfinder introduces young people to the college environment and gives them a handson experience that sets them up for success,” said Amanda Collina, Manager of Indigenous Student Services.

“It shows them that postsecondary is possible and attainable.”

Pathfinder participants, who are generally ages 16-21, build relationships with peers, mentors and Mohawk staff, and earn a dual credit that shows up on both their high school and college transcripts.

Pathfinder students stay in residence on campus during a three-week summer program. The program was extended to a winter edition this year, though COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the summer program.

Hill, who is Seneca Nation, began attending Pathfinder at Mohawk when she was 14. She’s now 24, in her second year as a recreation therapy student, and served as a mentor in the winter program.

She has learned much about her culture by spending time with Elders and Knowledge Keepers. Over the years, she got to kayak on the Grand River, took a trip to see an Indigenous exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, and attended a hoop dance at Mohawk.

Hill also got to know staff in Mohawk’s Indigenous Student Services and was made to feel welcome at the college, she says.

“The program really helped me to build skills and build confidence,” she said. “I was struggling at 14. I was a bit lost and didn’t have a direction.”

Pathfinder helped Hill find her way to postsecondary education.

“I think it’s amazing that Mohawk offers this program. When I started, I had no aspirations to go to college, but I learned I could.”


Pictured: Amanda Collina, Manager Indigenous Education and Student Services and Caroline Hill, student