Cultural support in a friendly, welcoming environment

Luane near artworkBoozhoo, Ahnii, Hello!

My name is Luane Lentz. I am Cree from Northern Ontario. I am also the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre (WAEC) Coordinator. In my job I do a number of things: I provide support to Aboriginal students on campus, I promote Aboriginal awareness and culture through events such as our annual Pow Wow held in September during Reunion weekend, and I also provide outreach to Aboriginal communities throughout Ontario. The WAEC is located at St. Paul’s University College in room 228.

When I was a student at UWaterloo, I used the services of the WAEC. When I first moved to Waterloo from Northern Ontario, I didn’t know anyone. I was alone, in “culture shock” and seriously questioning myself as to why I moved here. In my first week here, I sought out the support of the Aboriginal coordinator, Jean Becker. It was Jean that really helped me through the rough first semester and throughout my undergraduate career.  I recall the loneliness I felt not knowing anyone, the disaster of an “apartment” I was living in off-campus, and feelings of being in way over my head with my courses. If it weren’t for the Aboriginal Centre, I feel like I wouldn’t have succeeded. Jean introduced me to other Aboriginal students on campus, and I actively became involved with the Aboriginal Students Association throughout my undergraduate career. She also helped me get set up with tutoring support and even assisted me in finding financial support when I was getting low on money.

As the coordinator now, I see a number of Aboriginal students with whom I can relate. Many are struggling for financial support, looking for housing, in need of academic assistance, and most importantly, cultural support. The WAEC provides students with a “home away from home” atmosphere. We host a free weekly “Soup and Bannock” lunch every Wednesday that everyone is welcome to attend, numerous cultural events and activities such as moccasin-making, and access to elders and cultural teachers through our Visiting Elders’ program.

artwork with studentsRecently, the WAEC unveiled a brand-new, eye-catching piece of artwork aimed to depict events and activities featured at the Centre. If you are ever in the St. Paul’s area, you are more than welcome to come see the mural, and while you’re at it, come enjoy a free meal on us while learning about the rich diverse Aboriginal culture we have in Canada.

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