Empowering Indigenous youth with education
Now recognizing 20 students and increasing grants from $4,000 to $5,000 for each academic year, the expansion of the program offers greater support to more students – thus ensuring that Indigenous youth have the platform they need to access education, improve their communities, and pave a sustainable path forward for Canada.
No one knows the impact that such a grant can have more than Ryland Conrad, associate at RBC Wealth Management Finance and a 2016 recipient of the RBC Indigenous Student Awards. Here, we speak with Ryland to learn more about his experience as an award recipient, and his journey from Saint Mary’s University student to a career at RBC.
To start, tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Ryland Conrad, and I’m Sipekneꞌkatik First Nations from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I first joined RBC as an intern in summer 2019, and am now an associate with RBC Wealth Management Finance here in Toronto.
You are a 2016 recipient of the RBC Indigenous Student Awards. What was your experience with post-secondary education like? Did the Student Award change your experience?
I’ve always been passionate about finance, and even in high school, I knew right off the bat that I wanted to pursue my degree in this field. So when I was accepted to Saint Mary’s University for a bachelor’s in commerce, I was thrilled! But then, I – like many other Indigenous students – soon had to face the sobering question: how do I afford tuition?!
Applying for, and then being awarded the Student Award, lifted this burden off my shoulders. Not only did it enable me to attend university, but it allowed me to access the full range of opportunities offered by my school. With the financial stress alleviated and the time I would have spent working freed up, I could focus on my studies, participate in extracurriculars and take part in campus life. In this sense, the Student Award allowed me to have a more well-rounded and memorable post-secondary experience, for which I’m really grateful!
What encouraged you to apply for the scholarship?
I was drawn to the RBC Student Awards because it truly felt like a program that was created specifically for the needs of Indigenous students. One thing that stood out about the program in particular was how holistic it is – RBC is not only looking for high academic achievers, but also for individuals who are deeply involved in their own community. For many Indigenous youth, our connection with our community is at the core of our identity, so it was great to see that RBC understood this important aspect of our lives and sought to make it a meaningful part of the program.
You’ve just recently graduated from Saint Mary’s University with a bachelor’s in commerce – congratulations! Looking back now, how has the scholarship impacted your overall education and career trajectory?
The support from the Student Award was exactly the stepping stone I needed to succeed both in school and beyond. Having financial support meant less stress – which meant good grades and great extracurriculars! This, in turn, opened even more doors for me: for example, I then had the opportunity to join my university’s co-op program early in my academic career, allowing me to build the work experience I needed to be a strong candidate for internships and jobs after graduation. And of course, having the recognition of the scholarship on my resume didn’t hurt either!
All in all, I would say that being granted the Student Award had a ripple effect that ultimately helped me reach where I am today.
How did you come to your current position at RBC?
I initially applied for a summer position at RBC through their Indigenous Student Internship Program, and after an amazing four-month experience, this led to my current full-time role with RBC Wealth Management Finance. From the Student Awards, to the Student Internship program and more, RBC offers so many programs for students and young professionals looking to build their skills and their career. Leaning into these programs has helped me seize new opportunities, so I always encourage others to check them out!
What’s one piece of advice you have for students who may be applying for scholarships in the upcoming months?
Know what your long-term goals are and be prepared to articulate how you plan on achieving them. I think that’s the one thing that helped me stand out in my Student Award application. In fact, beyond scholarships, it’s probably good advice in general – once you know what you want, step by step you’ll be able to get there!