Despite its name, First Nations House (FNH) is more than a house – it’s a home for Aboriginal students on campus. Located in North Borden House just off of Spadina Circle, FNH is run by the Office of Aboriginal Student Services and Programs, and it aims to provide support for incoming and returning students across all three campuses.
But, a quick summary doesn’t do justice to just how holistic FNH’s approach is to student support. FNH can assist students with academic issues, financial counselling (including financial aid), housing, careers, cultural support, and health and well-being. Throughout the year, it hosts everything from academic support programs to cultural events and its Resource Centre contains a diverse collection of indigenous-related materials. FNH also hosts an Elder-in-Residence and a Traditional Teacher program, a rewarding learning experience for students that helps foster a greater sense of community and culture.
Lisa Boivin, a fourth-year student in the Bio-Ethics Specialist program, says “the support at First Nations House has been invaluable… it’s hard to articulate how life-affirming it is.” Lisa entered U of T through the Academic Bridging Program, which allows students without formal qualifications to build the requirements necessary to begin an Arts and Science degree. Her time at FNH, says Lisa, has helped her grow academically and also helped her find support as an artist.
Shannon Simpson, Coordinator of Academic Support at FNH, says it’s incredibly important to help students “find that sense of belonging”, particularly if they are transitioning to living in a new city or community. FNH works to connect students with Aboriginal groups on campus or within the city, including the Native Students Association, Indigenous Education Network, Aboriginal Law Students’ Association, and Supporting Aboriginal Graduate Enhancement (SAGE).
There is a strong community, however, within FNH itself and getting involved is as easy stopping by for a visit. The lounge on the 3rd floor is open to students during the week and weekly free lunches on Fridays are a great opportunity to meet new people. Students can also sign up for FNH’s listserv to get emails about upcoming events and can connect with them through Facebook and Twitter.