The number of indigenous people taking post-secondary education is growing rapidly in Alberta, the latest numbers show.
More than 10,000 university and college students identify themselves as aboriginal. That number is 70 per cent higher than it was 10 years ago.
“More knowledge is always better no matter what,” said Dawn Lameman, who is studying management at NAIT with the goal of moving into a career focusing on environmental business.
Mario Auger credits the support he gets from NAIT's aboriginal student centre, which helps make him feel at home as he studies business.
“Coming from a small town was the transition to a bigger city and this place helped the transition with the culture and surrounding of the area. It helped a lot,” he said.
Derek Thunder, aboriginal liaison co-ordinator at NAIT, says many students are moving away from areas of study once popular with indigenous students.
“A long time ago it was a lot of people going into social work and teaching and there are so many more possibilities of different kinds of careers out there that everybody is starting to hear about.”
The number of aboriginal students enrolled in Alberta’s publicly-funded post-secondary institutions has increased from 6,236 in 2005 to 10,610 in 2013, according to Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education
But with many students choosing not to identify themselves with a particular ethnic group, the numbers could be even higher, said spokesperson Kevin Donnan.
Even so, the province admits there's still a long way to go. There is a strong push for schools to try to get their percentage of indigenous students to match the general population.
Lameman is confident that stories of success will encourage others.
“Seeing what can be achieved once you go to post-secondary, there's more you can achieve when you go home,” she said.