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Help Indigenous Student Attend Columbia University

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I will be the first Indigenous person to take Columbia University’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction program, if I can raise funding for tuition and living expenses. Because Columbia is located in the United States, there is limited Métis funding available to me. In Canada, we also have a lifetime student loan limit, and during my undergraduate degree, I have used $75,000 of the $100,000 allowed. For these reasons, I am turning to the community for any and all support for help toward my tuition. I grew up in poverty with a single mom, and do not have any financial support toward attaining private loans, meaning access to funding my degree is extremely limited.

Columbia University is an Ivy League school with a 5% acceptance rate. I don't want to walk away from my dreams due to financial issues. I worked hard to overcome my intergenerational traumas and obstacles to better my life, and in doing so, gained acceptance into one of the world’s most prestigious universities. I want to represent the Métis Nation, showing that we can shatter barriers and persevere despite years of cultural genocide. I want to show what never giving up on yourself looks like, paving a way for new expectations for what Indigenous peoples can accomplish. I knocked on the door to a school that will open up all other doors for me moving forward, and they opened. I want to walk through those doors.

My Background

I grew up with a drug-dealing, gang-affiliated father. My dream is to break the chains of intergenerational trauma and become an Indigenous creative writing professor. In the United States, less than one percent of university professors are of Indigenous descent, and in Canada, this figure is only slightly higher. I will bring my diverse background to academia and, in turn, inspire others to do the same. I am a member of the communities I explore. I am not an outsider wanting to “solve the mysteries of the savage,” as my nouhkom (grandmother), Thelma Chalifoux, would say. My position as an Indigenous professor would be huge for representation of our community, and mentoring and helping other young Indigenous kids reach their full potential.

Growing up as a young Canadian Indigenous woman in Canada is a complicated life journey. My father was incarcerated for two-and-a-half-years for molesting my sister. Trauma defined my childhood, and creative writing has given me an outlet to work through and express those experiences.

In spite of the adversity I faced as a child and young girl, I managed to graduate from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing. In 2019, I was invited to become a research assistant for the University of Alberta Prison Project (UAPP). In listening to the stories of prisoners who are part of that project, I realized my experience of intergenerational trauma was coming full circle. Reliving my past through this research position elevated my desire to work with marginalized, at-risk people in the literary arts. 

I learned that almost all prisoners were victims long before they ever committed offences. When I become a creative writing professor, I will facilitate creative writing workshops within correctional institutions to foster healing, the same way creative writing healed my traumas.  In part, this is one reason why Columbia is my dream graduate school. Columbia is home to the Incarcerated Artists Project, where their MFA students facilitate creative writing workshops with prisoners and publish their work. Due to my upbringing and relationship with the prison system, this opportunity is one among many that makes Columbia my top choice in pursuing my dreams. The program is a perfect fit for my unique career goals. 

Overcoming the adversity that I had to… statistically speaking, I should be dead, but instead, I find myself accepted into the school of my dreams.

Paying to Live in NYC

Columbia is located in New York City, a literary capital of the world, but it is also one of the most expensive places to live. These high living costs are another reason why I need as much support as I can get toward my degree. I am currently working for Lululemon, and the University of Alberta Prison Project. During my MFA program at Columbia, I aspire to transfer to a Lululemon in NYC to supplement the costs for rent and food, as well as continuing to work for the UAPP, as most work is done from my computer.  

Other Ways to Support Me

On March 1st of this year I released my first poetry book titled, Dear You,. Dear You, is the first book in my poetry trilogy, The Love Letters. This book is for those who have felt the crippling pull of abusive and toxic relationships—this book is for those who have experienced trauma, abuse, deception, and have felt their own delicacy when their trust has been broken at a core level.

Dear You, explores the dark themes of depression, self-harm, and toxicity—but it is only the beginning of the journey on discovering, nurturing, and forcefully embracing self love and respect. You can purchase this book on Amazon. 

All earnings from my poetry book will go directly to tuition and living expenses in NYC.

Tuition Costs/Scholarships

The only thing holding me back from tackling my dreams head-first, is the cost. Here is the cost for one year of tuition and living expenses for my program, which is in USD. I am raising in CAD, since it is my country of residence. I am hoping to raise enough to cover both years of tuition, reflected in the fundraising amount, plus the deduction cost of transaction fees from gofundme. Columbia has offered me a generous scholarship of $40,000 USD, which I have deducted from the fundraising goal amount. If I am able to raise anything additional, it will go towards rent, transportation, living expenses, books and supplies, as outlined below, while studying. I have to respond to my offer by April 22, 2021 and pay a deposit of $800 USD on this date, as well. 

Here are the statistics for Indigenous students who completed Columbia University's Master's in Fine Arts Writing Program.

Related Projects

Here is a video of one of my spoken word pieces where I go into my personal experience of intergenerational childhood trauma, displaying my poetic voice that I will incorporate into my thesis.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I appreciate every minute you spent engaging with me. If you want to see more of my writing, or know a bit more about my story, please find me on all social media platforms under @softasbones. I am happy to answer any questions and will be posting updates about my gofundme on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Any and all donations are appreciated beyond belief, as you are helping to shape, shift, and change my life for the immeasurable better. Without you, there is no me, and all the potential for what I can be.

Sincerely, Chyana Marie Sage Deschamps.


Chyana Marie Sage
Edmonton, AB

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