Policy Sectors

Michael Melancon-Koffend Student Awards


In 2020, the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) received a generous donation from Marie Melancon-Ifram. In her selflessness, she specified NWAC as one of the beneficiaries of her estate, with direction that the donation be used to provide bursaries. Bursaries named in her late son’s name, Michael Melancon-Koffend, will enable Indigenous women, Two-Spirit, and gender-diverse post-secondary students to pursue their educational goals.


The Awards Program

The Michael Melancon-Koffend Awards are coordinated by NWAC’s Business, Employment, and Social Development (BESD) Unit. Indigenous youth manage the selection process.

The annual Michael Melancon-Koffend Award provides $1,000 for selected Indigenous women, Two-Spirit, or gender-diverse students to pursue their post-secondary studies.


  • Applicants must be pursuing post-secondary studies (open to all fields of studies).
  • Award is intended for Indigenous women, Two-Spirit, and gender-diverse people.
  • Open to all age groups.
  • Applicants must demonstrate financial need.
  • Priority given to students committed to improving situations of Indigenous women and gender-diverse people in Canada politically, culturally, economically, or otherwise.




2020 Scholarship Recipients

This year, the Michael Melancon-Koffend Student Award Selection Committee received and reviewed over 140 applications. NWAC is pleased to announce 11 awards to the following outstanding women:


Ashton Hiebert

My name is Ashton. I’m from Tootiinaowaziibeeng First Nation in Manitoba and I currently reside in Winnipeg. I’m dedicating myself full-time to my Community Support Worker program and I want to use this education to work with Indigenous communities as well as LGBTQ+ people. As a gender-diverse person myself, this is very important to me. I’m passionate about writing, connecting with other people, and uplifting my community. Since I’ve graduated high school, this is what I’ve committed myself to doing and will continue to do so in order to improve community well-being. With utmost honesty, I am truly grateful to receive this award. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today without the support of my loved ones

Avery Velez

Kwe’ ni’n teluisi Avery ni’n L’nuwey aq Portuguese aq weji-sqalia'tmik maqamikew eteg Elmastukwek Ktaqamkuk. My name is Avery (they/them/nekm) and I am mixed Mi'kmaw and Portuguese. I grew up in relationship with the land in what is now known as the Bay of Islands in Newfoundland. I just started my MA in Environmental Policy in September and plan to continue my education afterwards to pursue a JD/JID (joint Indigenous law degree) and PhD. The theme of all these degrees will be Apaja’tunej Maqamikew (Land Back). For this MA, my thesis is going to be on defining what Land Back means in the context of Tkisnuk Ktaqamkuk (Western Newfoundland), the lands of my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother. Once I have clear direction from my community, I'll apply that context to my law degree and come home to finish off the work with a PhD project in line with community-identified needs. I am extremely excited to do this work and so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to my community's wellbeing.

Cassidy Richert

My name is Cassidy Richert and I am a proud Metis woman from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I am currently in my third year of studies at the University of Saskatchewan in the field of Sociology. I am completing my Sociology degree through the Indigenous Justice and Criminology Program in the College of Arts and Science. In addition, I am also completing a certificate in The Indigenous Governance and Politics Certificate of Proficiency.

I am honoured to be the chosen Saskatchewan recipient of the Michael Melancon-Koffend Student Award for 2022. Through my education I aspire to become an Indigenous liaison officer and work in rural Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. This position will allow me to act as a positive link between the community and offender, resulting in proper reintegration and restorative justice. I am passionate about having a career that aligns with Indigenous feminism and contributes to the decolonization model in Canada. I look forward to all the opportunities and experiences my education has and will continue to provide.


Cynthia Denny

Kirsten Fleury is a 24-year-old Métis woman from St. Francois Xavier, Manitoba. She is a first-year medical student at the Max Rady College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba. During her undergraduate degree for her Bachelor of Science, Kirsten was able to connect with undergraduate research opportunities in the area of Métis Health and Wellness, which used Indigenous Research Methodology. This experience working with communities in a health research capacity inspired Kirsten to become a doctor to provide culturally safe care to her Indigenous relations. She hopes in the future to continuing partnering with Indigenous communities for health research to aid in the creation of data to hopefully reduce health disparities that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Manitobans.

Kaiahtenhtas Thompson

She:kon! My name is Kaiahtenhtas Thompson, I am Kanien'keha:ka wolf clan, from Akwesasne. I attend UBC for Education and plan to be a secondary English teacher. When I am not in classes or at practicum, my favourite things to do are spending time with the people and animals I love, making beautiful beadwork, and being outdoors. I'm so excited to be finishing school soon so that I can start to give back to the youth of my community.


Kaiahtenhtas Thompson.

Kassua Dreyer

My name is Kassua Dreyer. I’m Kaska Dena from Rossriver and Pelly Banks, Yukon. I was born in Germany and raised in Northern Canada. Last summer I graduated high school and now attend the University of Calgary as a varsity student for swimming. I currently major in International Studies with the hopes of one day becoming an Indigenous Lawyer. I’m very passionate about learning about Indigenous culture, language, and ways of life.


Kyra Sanguez

My name is Kyra Sanguez and I am from Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories. I am 19 and in Early Learning and Child Care attending NorQuest College. I want to become a teacher!

Mindy Dallard

Mindy Dallard is a second year Bachelor of Health Sciences student at Queen's University. During her studies she has earned a certificate in Intercultural Awareness through Queen's University and a certificate in Indigenous Canada through the University of Alberta. She is currently completing a certificate in Quantum Computing through IBM's Qubit by Qubit program. She will continue to earn a certificate in French for Professionals and in Indigenous Languages and Cultures though Queen's University concurrently with her degree. Upon graduation she plans to improve living conditions and access to culturally appropriate healthcare in Northern Canada. Mindy is currently the Senior Canadian National Student Rep for AISES, which is an organization that supports Indigenous youth and connects them with STEM professionals. Mindy enjoys spending any free time in nature, and with her family and animals.

Thank you for this opportunity.

Mindy Dallard

Ruth Speck

ʔi ʔə ce:p ʔəw ʔeləy̓ ʔal. Ruthie Speck kʷə nə skʷix, təniʔ cən ʔə ƛ̓ xʷməθkʷəy̓əm. My name is Ruthie Speck and I am from the Musqueam Indian Band. I am currently studying in the Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NITEP) at UBC to be an English and Social Sciences Secondary Teacher and plan to develop a hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language curriculum for high schools. It has only been over the past few years that I’ve realized the importance of revitalizing, knowing and using my own language. Studying hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ has helped me understand more about myself, my culture, and about the ones who came before us; this has left me with a longing to continue to learn and pass on that knowledge. In my Indigenous education focus I have embraced theories and pedagogies that speak to non-traditional, holistic, anti-hierarchical and decolonial ways that reflect Indigenous ways of knowing and being. Outside of my studies I am passionate about photography and film, memes, war canoe pulling, pickleball, and snowboarding. c̓əyəθamə cən NWAC for supporting my studies.


Stephanie Brousseau

My name is Stephanie Brousseau and I am honoured to be the recipient of the Michael Melancon-Koffend Student award. I am a proud Cree women from the Goodfish Lake First Nations Band, 4th generation residential school survivor and 3rd generation day school survivor. I’m a wife and mother to 3 beautiful children. Currently I’m completing my Medical Office Administration Diploma through Reeves College in Lloydminster, AB. I worked as a medical office assistant for the past 6 years and now want to pursue becoming a clinic manager. I want to be able to bring awareness to those that are in our every day healthcare of the disadvantages, generational trauma that plagues our indigenous people. I want to be able to provide exceptional care and compassion to all patients that are entering our healthcare system and change the stigma and treatments of indigenous people. I am exceptionally grateful for the support and look forward to making a difference.


Previous Winners

2021 winners:

  • Amanda Bradbury
  • Chelsea Gibson
  • Isabella Sinclair
  • Kirsten Fleury
  • Michaela McGuire
  • Rachel Blowers