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RBC Aboriginal Student Awards Program

RBC Aboriginal Student Awards Program

The RBC Aboriginal Student Awards Program was launched in 1992 to assist Aboriginal students to complete post-secondary education, and provide an opportunity for RBC to strengthen its relationship with the Aboriginal community. Selected students are awarded up to $4,000 each academic year for two to four years to use towards tuition, textbooks, supplies and living expenses.

RBC awards 10 scholarships in two categories:

  • For students majoring in disciplines related to the financial services industry
  • For students majoring in disciplines unrelated to the financial services industry

We also consider scholarship recipients who are interested in careers in financial services for summer and post-graduate employment


You are on: Who is Eligible?

You are eligible to apply to the RBC Aboriginal Student Awards Program if you are a Status Indian*, a Non-status Indian, Inuit or Métis and meet these criteria:

  • You are a permanent resident or citizen of Canada
  • You have applied or are currently attending an accredited post-secondary institution in Canada
  • You maintain a full course load that leads to a recognized degree, certificate or diploma
  • You have at least two years remaining in your post-secondary studies as of September 2017
  • You require financial assistance to pursue your education

If you are already receiving partial funding from other sources, you may still apply to the RBC Aboriginal Student Awards Program to cover additional educational and living expenses.

*Indian as defined in Section 2(1) of the Indian Act

You are on: How it Works

Applications and supporting documents are to be received by RBC by 11:59 pm EST on February 28th, of each year. If selected, the applicant must provide proof of her/his acceptance to university or college and eligible status by July 31.

How it Works

You will receive up to $4,000 per academic year for educational and living expenses for two to four years.

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How Award Recipients are Selected

A committee of Aboriginal academics and RBC representatives review all completed applications and makes the final selection of the award recipients primarily based on personal and academic achievements and individual financial need. Successful applicants are notified of the committee's decision by May 30 of each year. All decisions of the committee are final.

You are on: Application

We are no longer accepting applications for 2017


To be eligible, applications and supporting documents are to be received by RBC by 11:59 pm EST on February 28th, 2017. If selected, the applicant must provide proof of her/his acceptance to university or college and eligible status by July 31st, 2017. If you cannot confirm your acceptance by July 31st, 2017, RBC reserves the right to disqualify you for that academic year and to select another applicant. You may reapply for the following academic year.

Completed application package must contain:

  • FULLY completed application form
  • COPY of your most current transcript
  • LETTER of recommendation from a teacher, employer, or member of your community.

Please do not submit more than one application per year.

3 Ways to apply:

  • Toll-Free Fax

  • Canada Post Mail
    RBC Aboriginal Student Awards
    C/O Aboriginal Link
    PO Box 50058, 17-2595 Main Street
    Winnipeg, MB
    R2V 4W3

  • Online
    Apply Online Now! (opens external website in new window) Please note that the online application is optimized for PC's. It is recommended that Mac users use the printable PDF below and submit via fax or postal mail at one of the addresses indicated above.

    Access the Printable Application (PDF) (opens external website in new window)

Please contact us at the following email address if you have questions about the program.

To ensure security of personal information we will not be accepting application forms via this e-mail address.


Important Dates

Our 2017 application period is now closed.


Send Us an Email If you have questions about the program, please contact


Connect With Us




Meet Our Past Winners

Tonya-Leah Watts

Tonya-Leah Watts
Ontario – Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve
Bachelor of Science Biomedical Sciences, Trent University


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Application Assistance

If you are a person with a disability and have questions or would like help with your application, please email our team.


Meet Our Past Winners

Tonya-Leah Watts

Tonya-Leah Watts

Ontario – Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve
Bachelor of Science Biomedical Sciences, Trent University

Tonya-Leah exemplifies the qualities of a well-rounded young leader in the Indigenous community. She is a passionate scientist, published author, cultural knowledge educator, musician, soccer player/coach, recipient of numerous academic awards and she has been featured on the APTN show, Dream Big. She strives to be a positive role model for indigenous youth. Tonya-Leah also aspires to become a doctor who takes pride in infusing indigenous cultural knowledge with western science to offer new and innovative perspectives as well as represent Indigenous peoples positively.

Rayna Gopaul

Rayna Gopaul

Manitoba – WSeine River First Nation
BA Indigenous Governance and Political Science, University of Winnipeg

Through this scholarship, Rayna is on the fast-track of achieving her dreams of becoming an Indigenous lawyer and leader that will help Indigenous people overcome the unique barriers to accessing justice in Canada. Being raised in foster care and having struggled growing up has shaped her to become a strong young woman who is determined to pursue education against all odds, achieve a bright future for her family and empower young indigenous people in similar circumstances turn their lives around.

Tyler Cameron Tabobondung

Tyler Cameron Tabobondung

Objibway – Wasauksing First Nation
RBC Winner 2015 and Recipient of the Leadership Award
Education: McMaster University – Doctor of Medicine

Tyler recently graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Neuroscience and Mental Health Studies. While he was there he was the Aboriginal student life coordinator and volunteered at University of Toronto’s Emergency Medical Response Group (EMRG). Tyler has the career goal of working as a physician in both urban and remote indigenous communities. Tyler wants to create a clinic on Wasauksing First Nation, with hopes of improving the lives of the people in his home community. His ultimate goal is to eliminate the devastating effects that malnutrition, drugs, and disease have had on his home community.

Laura Arngna’naaq

Laura Arngna’naaq

Lives in Toronto, Ontario
Aboriginal Heritage: Inuit
RBC Award Winner: 2011-2012
Education: Currently pursuing Master’s Degree in Management and Professional Accounting, University of Toronto

As the first Aboriginal student enrolled in her program at the University of Toronto, Laura Arngna’naaq is proving that a person’s desire for education can evolve over time.

Laura, who is half Inuit on her father’s side, spent her early years in Nunavut, then Yellowknife. “Education has less value in the north – it’s cultural,” she observes. But with a mother who is a public school teacher and an ambitious older sister who is now a lawyer, passing up a post-secondary education was “not an option!” she recalls. What changed her mind?

“We moved to Kingston, Ontario when I was 12 and I have to admit I wasn’t interested in education,” recalls Laura. “Then I began to appreciate that Aboriginal peoples have amazing educational opportunities.”

Laura completed her undergraduate degree in 2012 at Trent University and the RBC Award helped with her post-graduate aspirations. “Tuition is high for the Chartered Accountant program,” she explains. “The Award has helped offset a lot of the general expenses.”

Prior to her time at U of T, Laura was the Aboriginal Student Ambassador at Trent University where she worked with the Aboriginal recruiter for new and returning students. “University is a different experience for those coming from reserves, especially for continuing education students. I helped with their options and to understand what the experience would be like.”

As someone who had little interest in university and is now enrolled in a challenging post-graduate program, Laura is in a position to offer practical advice that would benefit any student: “Find what you love doing and if you don’t know, keep your options open. I’m glad I waited to decide.”

Chad Garlow

Chad Garlow

Lives in Ontario on the Six Nations Reserve of Grand River
Aboriginal Heritage: Oneida
RBC Award Winner: 1996-1997
Education: Bachelor of Commerce, Economics Major from McMaster University.

In high school, Chad Garlow’s goals weren’t academic. Rather than being the “most likely to succeed” his aim was to have fun. “I just took a little while to grow up,” he admits.

Fortunately, maturity led Chad on an educational path that has served him, his family and his community on the Six Nations Reserve, exceedingly well. Today, he is Senior Account Manager at the RBC Ohsweken Branch, the first on-reserve branch opened in Canada, 20 years ago.

With an Oneida mother and a Mohawk father, Chad’s family reaches back three generations on the reserve. His family saw Chad’s potential and encouraged him to pursue an education but his daughter had the greatest influence. “She was one year old and I thought, ‘I brought a child into this world so I better do something for her.’”

Attending McMaster was difficult, admits Chad. “Life off reserve can be pretty intimidating. I ventured out like a baby taking steps. I did what I could and it worked out.”

Chad won the RBC Award and was offered part-time work at the branch while completing university. He planned to stay for three years. That was 15 years ago and he’s still there. Chad is still sometimes surprised at the significant role RBC has played in his life.

“Corporate culture is the direct opposite of native culture,” he observes. “Corporate people give their life to their work. For us it’s more like ‘who can we help today?’” As Chad drives around the reserve and sees people living in the homes he’s helped finance, he is deeply satisfied to know he’s helped many.

Judy Klassen

Judy Klassen

Lives in Steinbach, Manitoba
Aboriginal Heritage: Oji-Cree
Received RBC Award in 2008-2010
Education: Final year earning a BComm, majoring in Aboriginal business from the University of Manitoba

Judy Klassen has a message for any woman who wants to go back to school: “I did it and so can you!”

After running her own Laundromat on her Manitoba First Nations Reserve for five years, she pursued a long-held goal to attend university. “I grew up knowing I had to get a degree,” she says. Then as a small business owner, she came face-to-face with her community’s poor economy and believed a university education would help her understand the related issues.

“At first I thought I only had one goal but my education became like a big oak tree with branches of endless possibilities.” Such reflections extend beyond Judy’s own experience: “Core values that were taken away from us as Aboriginal people can now be blended with many good systems that are in place in this society. We can create something new and unique for our people. That’s what I hope to do.”

It hasn’t been easy for Judy. As the mother of six, commuting from the reserve to university was difficult. Moral support from her parents and children — including her eldest who is attending university with her -- helped greatly, as did the RBC Award. “It closed the gaps, especially for last minute babysitters and other emergency money,” she says. Then in the summer of 2012 Judy worked for RBC. She is now thinking about becoming a manager for one of RBC’s northern branches, though her professors are encouraging her to become a parliamentary assistant, upon graduation. “So many doors have opened…more than I thought possible,” she admits. “I can’t wait till I get my degree and see where it leads.”

Debra Alivisatos

Debra Alivisatos

Lives in Ottawa, Ontario
Aboriginal Heritage: Kahnawake Mohawk
RBC Award Winner: 1994-1995
Education: Bachelor of Education and Masters, Adult Education from University of New Brunswick.

When Debra Alivisatos returned to university to pursue her Masters’ degree, her goal was clear: “I wanted to work with or support Aboriginal people.” While financial challenges could have dashed her aspirations, the RBC Award helped. “I had been working full time and it was difficult to give up that salary. Also, there was the added expense of day care for my daughter. The Award enabled me to do my Masters’ degree and provided great financial relief,” she recalls. “And I was very impressed with RBC for taking this initiative to support Aboriginal students. It showed their commitment to the advancement of Aboriginal people.”

Debra grew up near the Kahnawake First Nation with an Anglophone father and a Kahnawake Mohawk mother who was a residential school survivor. After her undergraduate degree, she taught at the University of New Brunswick in their Aboriginal program. “Having a teaching background helped me communicate better and as an Aboriginal teacher I could understand my students’ wishes and dreams. My university education helped prepare me to take on new challenges.” Though she loved teaching, she knew that a post-graduate degree would enable her to do even more.

Debra is currently a Senior Negotiator at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. “Negotiating self-government agreements is a way to move beyond the Indian Act,” she believes, “to enable Aboriginal people to take greater control of their future.”

As an outstanding example of someone who has taken control of her own future Debra’s clear goals, strong commitment and openness to challenges have paved her way. She encourages others to use education as the foundation to build their own dreams.