Cyr overcomes barriers to excel in university studies
By Sam Laskaris
Robert Cyr is certainly overcoming some obstacles.
Though he is dyslexic, Cyr, a 45-year-old member of Pasqua First Nation in Saskatchewan, is thriving as a first-year student at First Nation University of Canada, located in Regina.
He is maintaining an average of more than 80 per cent, with academic accommodations for dyslexia in his studies. Cyr is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a major in Indigenous studies.
“My first year has gone great and I have realized things about myself as a student I never thought possible especially finding success in my academic writings,” Cyr said. “Because, as a student with dyslexia, reading, writing, and taking notes can be a barrier. However, I persevered by giving my professors my undivided attention during lectures, asking the appropriate questions and not being afraid to ask for help when needed.”
Cyr has also received a significant financial boost for his studies. He is one of eight recipients this year of the Indigenous Scholarship Program, delivered by Indspire.
The program, which annually offers $44,000 in funding, is a partnership between the CIBC and the National Indigenous Economic Education Foundation (NIEEF), Cando’s charitable organization, which provides scholarships, training and research funding to students involved in Indigenous community economic development.
Cyr was one of two recipients that received the maximum of $10,000 in funding each.
“It meant a lot to me winning this scholarship,” he said. “It was unexpected and a pleasant surprise. It relieved a lot of financial stress that had been interfering with my studies. The scholarship gave me peace of mind, knowing that I no longer had to worry about living cheque to cheque and that I was able to put some money away for living expenses, school expenses, and any unforeseen circumstances.”
Cyr believes his scholarship application was singled out because of his dedication to education.
“I believe my application stood out because of my work ethic as a student,” he said. “I started university with great appreciation and respect for academia. I knew I had to represent myself, my reserve, and other students who are attending school with academic accommodations. I believe, inspire and myself share similar philosophies and belief systems towards academia and community.”
Besides discovering he can handle a post-secondary school workload, Cyr also found out something else about himself after taking a 3D art course during his first term.
“As a result I had found hidden talent and a passion for sculpting, woodworking, and carving soapstone,” he said. “I’m going to take what I’ve learned and continue carving and making traditional art in my free time.”
Before enrolling at First Nations University of Canada, Cyr had completed his high school equivalency tests in 2019 through the Regina campus of Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
Prior to that he had attended a residential school in Lebret, Sask., from 1990-93, where he finished off with a Grade 9 education.
As for his future, Cyr has some specific goals.
“My first long-term goal is to start a teepee and industrial sewing company and I am dedicated to making this happen,” he said. “Teepees are traditional and multi-purpose structures that are used for a variety of activities, including camping and special gatherings and have been used as permanent housing.”
Cyr would also like to open an industrial sewing business in conjunction with a teepee company.