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North Bay student wins up to $70K for advocating for fellow Indigenous students

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Chippewa Secondary School in North Bay is celebrating after one of its students, 17-year-old Albany Benson, received a scholarship for her community leadership.

Benson, a Grade 12 student, is receiving up to $70,000 to cover her schooling. She is being rewarded for her work in ensuring Indigenous students feel comfortable at school and have a voice.

“People feel comfortable enough to talk in front of the school about their stories and their experiences now,” Benson said.

Elected as the Near North District School Board’s Indigenous student trustee, she is also a member of the Chippewa Indigenous student group, Okimakan.

“We'll put together assemblies for National Indigenous Peoples Day,” she said.

“But not only do we spread awareness, we also like to do activities to help revitalize the culture. So we’ll bring in drummers, beaders, etc.”

She also partnered with other students in the school board’s Indigenous Youth Advisory Circle to collect thousands of dollars worth of donations for necessities for Attawapiskat First Nation.

“We actually had so many donations and so much to give away,” Benson said.

“We actually ended up giving away to more than just Attawapiskat. We even gave some to Fort Albany, which is the community I’m a part of. So it was amazing.”

TD Bank is divvying up $1.4 million for 20 Canadian students across the country who have been chosen for the 2024 TD Scholarships for Community Leadership.

Chippewa Secondary School is celebrating after 17-year-old Albany Benson received a scholarship for her community leadership. (Photo from video)

“These students, they're trying to make sure that other students have access to good STEM education. They're looking at human rights,” said Jane Thompson, TD Scholarships for Community Leadership executive director.

“We’re actually also trying to support the emerging leadership of Canada. We want to make sure they get the education they need to continue on this leadership path.”

In her spare time, Benson is an avid figure skater who volunteers weekly as a youth skating coach. She also organizes bake sales and food drives.

Since 1995, TD has awarded nearly $29 million in scholarships to 580 students who have “demonstrated an outstanding commitment to community leadership.”

Benson will receive up to $70,000 to cover her university tuition and living expenses for a maximum of four years.

“I was checking my emails at night and I didn’t even know what to do when I found out. I thought it was a scam,” she said.

“I ran to go see my parents downstairs and tell them the news. It was a great moment.”

In the fall, she will be attending Nipissing University for a four-year undergrad in Indigenous Studies. From there, she hopes to attend law school.

“I’ve been supported by friends and family who’ve helped me get to where I am today and lead the path that I’m taking,” she said.

Benson said she wants to continue to be a voice and advocate for Indigenous equities for years to come. 

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