Dancer strives to use surprise scholarship
Unexpected college offer has brought unexpected costs
Tue, Aug 28, 2001
By Melissa Leong
AFTER a private college in Ottawa offered him an $18,000 scholarship last week, George Bear
is scraping up enough money to get himself to the school.
"I have to start saving. It all came about so suddenly," said the 37-year-old caretaker at
Freight House Leisure Centre.
A week ago, Bear performed a traditional hoop dance to a room packed with 150 educators
from 20 countries who were in Winnipeg for a conference.
After his dance, Bear spontaneously gave a speech about his lack of education and the
hardships that First Nations people face in achieving higher learning.
Rima Aristocrat, president and CEO of Willis College of Business and Technology in Ottawa,
was so impressed, she offered Bear a one-year scholarship to her school.
She is currently preparing the scholarship certificate to send to Bear.
Bear is responsible for his airfare and accommodations. He said he's looking for funding and
may approach the Southeast Tribal Council for help.
Bear has several hoop-dancing gigs coming up and he said he will set aside that money for
Ottawa, as well as save money from his full-time job as a caretaker, where he is paid
Patti Buck, Bear's girlfriend, shares his monthly expenses of about $650. Buck, who works at
Great West Life in the human resources department, said she will contribute to the savings
and accompany Bear to Ottawa this year or maybe next year.
"I think it's awesome," said Buck from their inner-city home yesterday. "For him, it was a
dream come true. It was Creator's way of saying, 'now it's time'."
Willis College of Business and Technology has recently set up a partnership with the University
of Winnipeg, the first inter-provincial partnership in Canada between private and public
Aristocrat told Bear that he could take his schooling in Winnipeg if he's willing to wait until the
project gets underway some time next year.
"I like change," said Bear who only went to Grade 9. "I'd like to see different places. I'd sure
like to see what the college is like."
Aristocrat said Bear will be assessed and offered upgrading courses to prepare him for the
classroom. The $18,000 scholarship doesn't cover tutoring but it will be offered free to Bear,
"I want to make sure that he's successful," said Aristocrat.
Bear said he is following the examples of other First Nation people in the community who have
succeeded in achieving higher learning.
"Other people in their life... they've done good for themselves. And me? I want to do it, too,"
Gifts allow hoop dancer to fly, take train to college
Wed, Aug 29, 2001
By Melissa Leong
GEORGE BEAR received several more surprise gifts yesterday when two Winnipeggers offered
him free train and air travel to get him to a private college in Ottawa.
Last week, Willis College of Business and Technology in Ottawa offered Bear a one-year paid
scholarship worth $18,000.
Yesterday, Bear received calls from Kevin Williams of VIA Rail and Monica Quiring, an Air
Canada employee, who both wanted to extend a helping hand to the 37-year-old caretaker of
Freight House Leisure Centre.
"I just can't believe this is happening," an incredulous Bear said. "It happens to people, but I
didn't think it would happen to me."
After performing a traditional hoop dance at an educators' conference in Winnipeg, Bear
spontaneously gave a speech about his dream of getting an education and the hardships that
first nations people face in achieving higher learning.
Rima Aristocrat, president and CEO of Willis College of Business and Technology, was so
impressed she offered Bear a scholarship on the spot.
The Free Press published a story yesterday about Bear, who has been trying to scrounge
enough money for air fare and accommodations.
Williams read Bear's story and called him at work to offer him two open train tickets to
Ottawa, including return fare.
"I think he thought I was kidding. I had to press him. I said, 'This is not a joke,' " said
Williams, a service manager at VIA.
Whenever Bear is ready, he can make arrangements for the tickets with Mark Pradine, a
former Winnipegger and marketing co-ordinator for VIA Rail in Vancouver, said Williams.
Quiring read the paper yesterday morning and jumped at the chance to help.
She contacted Bear at work and offered him a pass that would allow him to fly a return trip to
"I do feel the need to do something. Maybe it's because I've always had a feeling inside about
Metis and aboriginals. When I see the good that they do, it makes me proud," said Quiring, a
Quiring said she was a single mom working four part-time jobs while completing two
university degrees in science and education. She said she wants to go back to school for
another degree in medicine.
Bear said he's still in shock and hasn't decided which offer he's taking.