Innovative learning partnership for Indigenous youth

In the Yukon, 49 percent of First Nations adults have a post-secondary qualification, compared to 71 percent of non-Indigenous people, according to Statistics Canada.

The legacy of colonialism, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, the millennial scoop, and rampant racism continue to impose significant barriers for Indigenous peoples to access post-secondary education.

It will take fundamental changes to address barriers and bridge the gap, and that’s exactly what EleV (pronounced “ell-a-vee"), a Mastercard Foundation funded program, is doing.

Partnering with Indigenous-led organizations and higher education institutions, the Program aligns education opportunities with the aspirations of Indigenous youth and the priorities of their communities. It supports young people through post-secondary education and on to meaningful livelihoods by working in close partnership with Indigenous youth and communities to fundamentally transform education and employment systems.

Transforming post-secondary education in the Yukon

Yukon University and the Mastercard Foundation are expanding their existing partnership. A new five-year commitment through the Mastercard Foundation’s EleV Program continues the work of transforming education and supporting Indigenous youth participation and success in the Yukon.

Yukon University, in collaboration with Yukon First Nations partners, including the Assembly of First Nations Yukon Region, the Yukon First Nations Education Directorate, and the Training Policy Committee, will undertake a range of initiatives that will focus on systems change.

(Eco)System Change

In 2022, the Yukon First Nations Education Directorate (YFNED) partnered with Yukon University on an initiative to map the many facets of Yukon First Nation (YFN) education in the territory. Over several months a series of conversations were hosted with the intent of taking a more comprehensive look at the education system in the Yukon, including gaps, areas of overlap, and opportunities for collaboration. As a collective, it was agreed that we should continue the systems approach for collaboratively tackling education issues faced by Indigenous youth in the system.

The creation of an Education Ecosystem Coordinator, housed at YFNED, comes as a direct response to this call for action. The Ecosystem Coordinator will engage with YFNED’s Trades and Post-Secondary Navigators, the YFN Moccasin Trail Blazers youth group, and YFN communities and youth directly, to identify and understand common obstacles faced by Indigenous youth in the system. Then, rather than continuing to use workarounds and band-aid solutions, the coordinator will work with implicated entities within the ecosystem to address and dismantle these obstacles at the source and hold up promising practices in support of Indigenous youths’ educational success.

Project Lead: Darby Newnham, Education Analyst, Yukon First Nations Education Directorate

A Yukon First Nations Training Fund

Through their decades of experience in the administration of the Yukon Indian Peoples Training Trust, the Training Policy Committee (TPC), one of the Boards and Committees of the Umbrella Final Agreement, has identified a gap in training funding available to Yukon First Nation citizens. Using EleV Program funding, the TPC will conduct research, make implementation recommendations and seek funding for the establishment of a training and capacity building fund for Yukon First Nations individuals to address this gap.

Project Lead: Cynthia James, Training Fund Project Coordinator, Training Policy Committee

An Indigenization Strategy for Yukon University

In 2023, YukonU will be finalizing its Indigenization Strategy — a foundational document, which will help guide planning and development at YukonU, including work toward the achievement of commitment #2 in Yukon University’s Strategic Plan - To take our place in advancing reconciliation.

YukonU is working towards nurturing a culture of deep listening, dialogue, and respectful engagement, and is working towards decolonization through meaningfully improving programs, services, research, spaces and approaches to post-secondary education. The Strategy will be informed by Yukon First Nation communities’ desires and needs. It will be based on an authentic foundation of understanding, honoring, and creating space for Yukon First Nations’ cultures, languages, heritages, knowledge systems, and worldviews.

Read the Strategy (coming soon)

Collaborative Review of YukonU’s Program Development and Review Processes

This project will work with Yukon First Nations, as well as review policies at other post-secondary institutions, to develop a process for program review and development at Yukon University that meaningfully engages Yukon First Nation partners. Recommendations will be made for how YukonU’s policies can be revised in alignment with the University’s desired approach to Indigenization and are anticipated to inform an institution-wide approach to decolonized policy making.

Project Lead: Gavin Gardiner, University Secretary and Legal Counsel, Yukon University

Youth STEM Programming in Yukon Communities

YukonU will coordinate and develop local Indigenous youths’ capacity to deliver STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) programming in Yukon communities.

This project will build skills and confidence of young adults in STEM and leadership and grow capacity within communities to deliver youth programming and increase community control over youth programming. Additionally, it aims to inspire younger kids to, one day, become future STEM leaders in their communities and to create meaningful youth employment opportunities.

Project Lead: Liz Vickers-Drennan, Youth STEM Programs Coordinator, Yukon University

For more information about YukonU’s STEM programming visit:

Junior STEM Researchers

The Junior Researchers Program aims to engage older youth in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) and build interest in careers as researchers/scientists and post-secondary education, as well as to inspire youth to solve Northern challenges with STEM.

This project will pilot a mentorship model for developing youth leaders by pairing university students and faculty with high school students and recent high school graduates. By pairing youth with researchers at YukonU’s Research Centre, participating youth will develop research skills and knowledge through mentorship and meaningful, local, paid employment opportunities in their communities.

For more information please email:

Reconnection and Whole Person Programming

Reconnection and Whole Person Programming aims to build off the momentum and teachings from the Yukon First Nation (YFN) Climate Action Fellowship. The Fellowship was a 2-year leadership, policy development, and cultural Reconnection program delivered in partnership with the Assembly of Yukon First Nations - Yukon Region (AFN-Y) and CYFNs. Fellows were charged by YFN leadership to develop the YFN approach to Climate Action.

To support the 13 Fellows, who were 23-30 years old and from all walks of YFNs experience, we developed a whole-person educational approach, where we created a cultural-based curriculum that developed their spirituality, emotional competency, along with their intellect. Upon completion of the program, Fellows say, “I have the confidence to make life changing decisions for myself and so I can lead others”. The Fellows are now engaging on their philosophy of “Reconnection is Climate Action”, where Climate Change is a symptom of our disconnect from spirit, self, each other and Earth. Their approach is to normalize cultural education to seed Reconnection and in turn nurture whole-person confident approaches in how we live, learn and work. Their Reconnection Vision and Action Plan was endorsed by YFN Leadership in March 2023.

To see a copy of the Reconnection Vision Plan visit:

This project will develop, in partnership with the Institute of Indigenous Self Determination, a new educational model based on the YFN Climate Action Fellowship pilot that can inform a new Reconnection Program and assist in Indigenizing other YukonU programs.

Project Lead: Jocelyn Joe-Strack, Indigenous Knowledge Research Chair, Yukon University

Understanding Success Factors in Yukon University Programming

Yukon University has delivered many successful programs over the years. Several variables can influence program success (e.g., instructor and curriculum quality, delivery format, time of year, available funding, student supports, student readiness and interest), yet we often make assumptions about why a given program was successful, or not.

For Yukon University to offer programming in which Yukon First Nation students are consistently thriving it must first understand how Yukon First Nations define success. This understanding will form the foundation of a comprehensive review across multiple YukonU programs, focused on First Nation student success, to identify factors that led to that success. The findings and subsequent recommendations will help inform the design and delivery of future YukonU programming.

Project Lead: John Reid, Department Head Northern Campuses, Yukon University

Access to Education Through Micro-credentials

Provinces and Territories, and many institutions across Canada are embracing micro-credentials to bridge skills gaps and create accessible pathways to post-secondary education. YukonU values micro-credentials as an opportunity for non-traditional learners to complete education in a way that supports upskilling or reskilling in more meaningful and flexible ways that are directly related to skills gaps in the labor market. With the support of EleV funding, YukonU will develop a framework for micro-credential at YukonU.

Project Lead: Patrick Rouble, Department Head for Continuing Education, Yukon University

Post-Secondary Indigenous Graduate Celebration

In response to a resolution made at the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Yukon Chiefs’ Summit to “establish a formal celebration and acknowledgement for post-secondary students, focused on Youth and Emerging Leaders”, the Assembly of First Nations – Yukon Region, under direction from a YFN Advisory Committee, will plan, coordinate and host an Indigenous post-secondary graduate celebration in the Yukon in Spring 2024. The event will celebrate all post-secondary Indigenous graduates in the Yukon (from YukonU and those attending post-secondary outside the Yukon). The intention of the pilot year is to provide a model for hosting a post-secondary graduate celebrations each year in partnership with AFN-Y, YukonU, and other interested partners and stakeholders.

Project Lead: Jennifer Matchett, Director, Environment & Climate Change, A/Chief of Staff, Assembly of First Nations - Yukon Regions