The University of Winnipeg



Collegiate Model School reaches milestone

After 13 years, the program has had more than 100 students graduate and move onto post-secondary studies

Justine Dunsford and Abdikarim Abdi are two of nine students graduating from UWinnipeg Collegiate’s Model School program this year.

The University of Winnipeg Collegiate’s Model School program will reach an incredible milestone during virtual graduation on June 30. With nine new graduates this year, the program will surpass the 100 graduate mark with 108 students making it through their studies.

Attending the program gave me more responsibilities as a student, which helped me mature a lot and grow as an individual.

Justine Dunsford

The Colleigate launched the program in 2008 for marginalized youth in Manitoba who are facing significant barriers in completing their high school studies and who want to pursue a post-secondary education.

“We are very proud of all of the graduates of the Collegiate Model School program, both past and present,” said Director Ian Elliott. “I am reminded of a phrase from Kevin Chief, one of the founders of the Model School, that we want the program to act as a ‘Tap on the Shoulder’ to youth that face barriers in their life to say to them in a meaningful way that The University of Winnipeg and a post-secondary education is an achievable goal.”

All nine of this year’s graduates have been accepted into post-secondary institutions this fall. In total, 80% of UWinnipeg Collegiate Model School program graduates have gone on to pursue a post-secondary education.

“The UWinnipeg Collegiate graduation ceremony is a significant milestone as the Model School Program will surpass 100 graduates. I am extremely proud of what our faculty and students have achieved over the past 13 years,” said Dean Kevin Clace. “The success of this unique program has made a significant impact in our commitment to supporting marginalized youth, reconciliation, indigeneity, and new comers to Canada.” 

Preparing students for post-secondary success

Justine Dunsford and Abdikarim Abdi are two of this year’s graduates.

Dunsford joined the program in Grade 10. While the transition was a tough one for her at first, Dunsford continued to positively progress over the course of her first year and was a more well-rounded student heading into Grade 11 and then 12.

“Attending the program gave me more responsibilities as a student, which helped me mature a lot and grow as an individual,” she said. “I got my priorities straight, putting my school work first before my social life and basketball, which was something I failed to do my first year there.”

“I became aware of how to juggle the school load while also being on the basketball team.”

Heading into the fall, Dunsford will be attending UWinnipeg and majoring in psychology.

She says her time in the Model School program has prepared her for the challenges that will come in the first year of university.

“The workload we received at this school will be of benefit for post-secondary schooling,” she explained, “as it will be something that we already have gotten used to and will know what to expect.”

Abdi called his time in the program both fantastic and challenging, as the level of education was much higher than he was used to because he had just arrived in Canada two years earlier.

“In the end, I was able to learn so much and even earned a Student of Distinction Certificate when I was in Grade 11, one of my proudest moments as a student,” Abdi said. “I will forever be thankful for the education that I got at this school.”

Abdi says the program has made him comfortable with his upcoming transition to post-secondary studies, as he’s used online programs such as Nexus, Labs, and WebAdvisor.

“The program was effective in preparing me for post-secondary studies because it is so similar to what I will be experiencing at a university, particularly how difficult the courses will be and how to answer and deliver them to the instructors,” he said. “I definitely feel like I am more prepared for university than I would have been if I went to a different school.

Looking ahead to the fall, Abdi will be studying dental hygiene in UWinnipeg’s pre-professional program before continuing his studies at the University of Manitoba.

By working in dentistry, he hopes to one day give back to those who helped him achieve his dreams.

“My main reason for wanting to become a dental hygienist is to give back to my community for all the help they provided me,” Abdi explained, “and so one day I can go back to Somalia and provide dental hygiene to those who can’t afford it, particularly those in the rural areas.”

About the Model School

The Collegiate Model School program enrolls youth, from backgrounds that are under-represented in post-secondary education, who demonstrate potential, yet face barriers to success in mainstream schools.

The majority of these young people enter the Grade 9-12 program through referrals from inner-city schools, social agencies, and community organizations. More than 95% of students are First Nation, Métis, or new Canadians.

“While providing inner-city students an excellent education, coupled with the motivation to excel, the mutual commitment of educators and students has resulted in an exceptional graduation rate of 98%,” said Elliott. “As part of the University’s Community Learning initiatives, the goal of the Model School is to provide academic opportunities for students, regardless of socio-economic background, so they may develop and achieve a university-bound identity.”

Within this program, students have access to many UWinnipeg campus resources, facilities, activities, and services, including a membership at the Bill Wedlake Fitness Centre.

Most importantly, each student receives a full bursary to attend the University of Winnipeg Collegiate, as well as financial support for transportation, nutrition, and study supplies. Additionally, all Model School students are enrolled in the University’s Opportunity Fund Tuition Credit Account program, where they can earn up to $3,000 in tuition credit to attend The University of Winnipeg upon graduation.

Learn more about the Collegiate Model School program.

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