Education for all

The Verna J Kirkness Education Foundation is an organization with the goal of increasing indigenous student graduating in science and engineering. I am proud to serve as Executive Director of this incredible and empowering program. I am also thrilled that in December of last year, our Education Foundation received an endowment gift of $500,000 from the Sisters of Saint Ann, Pacific Northwest.

In May of 2014 Tla’amin Nation students Ryan Pielle, Drew Charlie and Brianna Baron from Brooks Secondary School spent a week at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg as recipients of scholarships through the Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program. As of May 2017 a total of 10 Tla’amin Nation grade 11 students have attended Kirkness Programs at both University of Manitoba and University of British Columbia.

The gift represents the initial donation to an endowment fund the Foundation is establishing to allow Program continuity and expansion. It will supplement funding from universities, government agencies, corporate and individual donors. The Sisters of Saint Ann understand and support the efforts of the Foundation to ensure successful  educational outcomes for First Nations students. They expressed in a letter to the Foundation the hope that their donation “might encourage other potential donors to also contribute”.

The Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation was established in 2008 with the primary goals to increase the number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) students graduating in science and engineering and to develop young role models who will influence other students to complete Grade 12 and pursue post-secondary studies. It achieves these goals by bringing Grade 11 FNMI students to a University campus for one week where they live in residence, meet with Elders at Aboriginal student centres, and do independent research with faculty mentors and their research groups. The program is called the Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program.

The Foundation’s namesake, Dr. Verna J. Kirkness, has been a leader in the field of Indigenous education since the 1950s. Her active involvement in the Program has been a major factor in its growth and success. To date, 288 Indigenous students have completed the Verna J. Kirkness Science and Engineering Education Program and are proud to be recognized as Kirkness scholars. In Georgina Balfour’s words, a 2012 Kirkness scholar from Norway House MB, “the Program allowed me to gain a great amount of knowledge and experience which is going to help me push forward in furthering my education into a science field.”

For further information about the Kirkness Foundation please visit:

More articles on the Foundation and it’s exciting work are below.

A local fundraiser we held to support the Foundation:

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