The launch of Bow Valley College’s Indigenous Savings Circle was a big success
Beginning in 2017, Bow Valley College created a financial education program called ‘Matched Savings’, offering students of all backgrounds an opportunity to learn the basics of managing money and finances and save their own money at the same time. Through generous donor contributions, the funds saved by our students were matched at a rate of 3 to 1. At the end of the program, students had access to the funds saved and matched to use towards their goals: paying tuition, buying books or school equipment like a laptop, or even paying off debt!
The program had considerable participation from our Indigenous students, and an idea was born. Bow Valley College currently has 663 self-identified Indigenous students who may face increased barriers to completing their education including insufficient funding, lack of family support or access to childcare. We saw a need to Indigenize the matched savings program curriculum and materials to strengthen the impact and better support the needs of our Indigenous students.
Bow Valley College Financial Empowerment Coach Blanquita Rebolone De Colley facilitates the Indigenous Savings Circle and works closely with participating students. ‘This program provides our First Nations, Metis and Inuit students with culturally relevant programming,’ she shares. ‘The program itself is modelled after the medicine wheel and the four seasons. Students attend four ‘seasons of savings’, where they learn about budgeting, banking, assets, credit and consumerism. We also have special guests who speak to students from the Indigenous perspectives, sharing their financial challenges and how they’ve overcome them.’
It was important to be sure to include culturally relevant messaging and content during the program to engage Indigenous students and meet their specific needs. ‘We have included an Elder blessing, providing our students with spiritual guidance on their financial journey,’ Blanquita Rebolone De Colley states. ‘This winter, the program will be offered online and self-paced, allowing students to attend on their own terms.’
Program graduate Kent Nichol, a Métis student enrolled in the Addictions Studies program, with an Aboriginal focus, shares his appreciation of the program, ‘I discovered I was a completely spontaneous spender through the program,’ notes Kent. ‘I learned through the program that with discipline and financial planning, I can achieve my financial goals.’
Kent shares that the program drastically changed how he views his finances. ‘I was almost completely financially illiterate before this program. It introduced me to the concepts of a spending plan, in a culturally relevant style, allowing me to learn how my ancestors would have gone through these things in the past. I’ll carry through the lessons I learned in the program for the rest of my life.’
Programs like this are made possible thanks to the generous support of our sponsors: United Way Calgary and Area and Suncor. We thank them for their generous contributions, and for helping us ensure our students are successful!
Learners who are experience stress of hardship due to their financial situation are encouraged to book an appointment with our in house Financial Coach.