The Loran Scholars Foundation announced its 2023 recipients, awarding 36 students from across Canada with $100,000 scholarships.
Nunavut’s recipient this year was Iqaluit’s Akutaq Williamson Bathory.
Bathory has had quite the year already, taking part in the Arctic Winter Games, Canada Games, starting a peer support group in school, all the while set to graduate from high school.
“It’s incredible, I still don’t believe it myself. I’ve had people coming up to congratulate me and I don’t even know what to say,” she said.
Bathory after graduating is planning to study social science and sociology as part of her post-secondary education.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” she commented.
The Loran Award in addition to the scholarship, also provides a four-year support program, from tuition waivers, financial support as well as a peer/mentor program.
“I look forward to that support,” said Bathory, “especially being from Nunavut where I’m not exactly used to the big city life, so it’s really reassuring to have that support there.”
This year, at Inuksuk High School, Bathory along with her friend Kimberly Canlas, started a peer support group in their school following a suicide in the community.
“We wanted to do something that would allow youth space for them to speak about what they’re going through if that’s what they need or to just have a group that’s there for them,” explained Bathory.
Sessions for the peer support group started a few months ago and she hopes it continues when they move on.
“To have that support within your peers is reassuring for many people,” she said.
“I think it’s really important to make sure that your mental health is prioritized, especially with suicide rates being really high. To know that you do have support and there are people willing to help you get through the difficult times.”
Bathory is currently in the process of relearning Inuktitut, something she initially learned in through her school education, but then subsequently lost it due to the lack of educational resources in higher grades.
“I lost it when I transitioned into full-time English, I was in the Inuktitut stream up until Grade 4, then I had to transition into full-time English,” said Bathory.
“That was difficult because I was behind my peers because they knew how to read and write. I had to gain those skills in Grade 5.”
She says Nunavut’s education system isn’t set up to preserve or educate people in Inuktitut and as a result, other students are also likely losing their language by the time they reach high school.
“It isn’t well-provided to maintain the language, I lost how to read and write Inuktitut.”
“Inuktitut courses just need to be better supported, to have that course material provided to them. The Inuktitut teachers themselves have to create the whole course, they have to create the whole program for the year,” said Bathory, compared to English courses having various textbooks and materials to draw from.
She still encouraged Inuktitut usage among family and friends before, during and after Inuktitut education ends in school.
“That’s how the culture stays alive, you have language by speaking it and practicing the language to keep it alive.”