Three teenage girls laughing and smiling as they look forward to the future


UBC Okanagan student seeks to empower Indigenous youth as a Knowledge Keeper and educator

Mar 4, 2024

With help from the TELUS Student Bursary, Canada’s largest student bursary program, Tiyanetkw Manuel is studying education with the aim to change the public school system and create new opportunities in her community.

Tiyanetkw Manuel, a first-year education student at UBC Okanagan, is working to build capacity among Indigenous youth in her community. Her goal is to become an Indigenous studies teacher and help students learn about Indigenous cultures, history and stories from an Indigenous perspective.  

“Within the public school system, I have faced several systemic barriers, including racism, and I always thought that the school system had little hope for my education and underestimated me,” she says. “My last year in high school, I decided what I wanted to do after seeing the way my passion for helping Indigenous students with the way school courses are run led to a rise in participation, motivation, learning and curiosity.”  

Looking back, it was that same connection, curiosity and support provided by her own family that helped put Manuel, a member of the Okanagan Nation, on the path to teaching. Her family made sure to stay connected to their First Nation’s culture and share the importance of retaining and passing it on. Although she didn’t at first realize the significance of doing so, Manuel came to understand the importance of maintaining cultural integrity and sense of belonging, and the impact that it had on her well-being and mental health.

“I learned the true relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canada,” she says. “So, I feel a strong obligation to my community, my family and myself. I want to teach future generations of First Nations youth and show them that we are valued, and we will heal as a community. I want to honour my ancestors and remaining language speakers by becoming one of the few Okanagan language speakers. My ultimate goal is to someday become a Nsyilxcen language speaker, knowledge keeper and educator.” 

While education opens doors to a brighter future, unfortunately, not all youth have the resources to attend college or university. Education costs are rising among other expenses students face, including housing, often leaving many post-secondary students heavily in debt. For Indigenous students, the experience is even more challenging. Rates of post secondary completion for First Nations (45.3%), Métis (56.3%) and Inuit Peoples (33.6%) remain below the general population average of 68%.

Helping students in need overcome financial barriers to their education is the reason TELUS launched its TELUS Student Bursary. With a $25-million endowment gift from TELUS and a $25-million commitment in fundraising from TELUS Friendly Future Foundation, the bursaries are awarded annually to youth, across Canada, between the ages of 17 and 29,  who are accepted into or attending a college or university program at a Canadian post-secondary institution. A key element of the program is that bursary recipients are also actively making efforts to give back to their communities in positive ways.

TELUS Student Bursary Recipient, Tiya, standing in front of a medicine wheel painting on a tipi at her Indigenous graduation ceremony.

“We believe that all youth in Canada deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential,” says Nimmi Kanji, Executive Director, TELUS Friendly Future Foundation. “The bursary program will support hundreds of students, both Indigenous and non-Indigneous, each year, removing barriers to accessing education through both funding and support services that help them graduate, while empowering them to pursue their dreams and help create a better world.” 

Launched in 2023, Manuel is one of 400 students across the country to date to receive a TELUS Student Bursary. It’s a level of support she appreciates from both a financial perspective and as someone deeply invested in the revitalization of Indigenous languages and culture. 

“Thanks to the TELUS Student Bursary, I don’t need to worry about funding and can focus on my education,” she says. “By focusing and giving it my all, I get to raise more awareness and motivation, and impact my community.”

Students can apply for the TELUS Student Bursary directly through TELUS Friendly Future Foundation or through various partners across the country including University of Victoria, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Humber College, McGill University, and, in keeping with TELUS’ commitment to Indigenous reconciliation, Indspire, a national Indigenous registered charity.   

The next Student Bursary application window opens in Spring, 2024. To learn more and how to apply, visit