Diversity and inclusion

How Loblaw is helping support Indigenous students like Malia

August 29, 2023

A photo of Malia standing outside smiling 

Malia Robinson never saw herself going to university.  Academia wasn’t something that anyone in her family ever talked to her about. Plus, after high school, she went through a really hard time. 

“I went from being homeless to having chronic health issues and a lot of mental health issues after being the subject of random incidents of brutal violence,” she says. “I needed a lot of support.” 

And that’s not even counting the cost. When Malia, who’s a Métis student from Vancouver, began looking into attending the University of Toronto, she was already a mature student—and most of the scholarships she came across had age restrictions that disqualified her from applying.  

“I kind of gave up looking for assistance because there were all of these unnecessary roadblocks. It felt like I was being penalized for having a non-traditional route to academia, and stepping up to the plate when I was able to,” she says now. 

But then, she came across Indspire’s Building Brighter Futures scholarship, a partnership with Loblaw that kicked off in the 2022/2023 academic year. Loblaw was able to donate $50,000 to fund 10 scholarships valued at $5,000 each for Indigenous students. The Canadian government then matched the donations, so all 10 students who were awarded a scholarship received $10,000. 

According to Michelle Reyes, Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition, Campus Strategy, by donating these funds and having it earmarked for student-related programming, her department saw an opportunity to uphold the company’s commitment to reconciliation and its Embrace Your Roots initiatives and focus. 

“We want to make sure that we're also trying to do what we can as an organization to give back to the communities that Loblaw supports. Specifically at the youth level, that means helping them continue on with their academic journey. Ultimately, it’s about breaking down those barriers when it comes to academic studies, and ultimately supporting their future career goals.” 

As one of the 10 recipients of this scholarship, Malia says the support has been life-changing.   

“I was actually able to apply it to my student debt at one time, and I was able to graduate completely debt free,” she says.  

This spring, Malia earned her undergraduate degree from U of T, where she majored in Women & Gender Studies with minors in Contemporary Asian Studies and Buddhism, Psychology and Mental Health. Next, she’s headed to graduate school—and eventually, she wants to open a practice that helps people like her overcome trauma and rebuild their lives, while charging fees on a sliding scale to ensure this type of support is accessible to the people who need it most, a dream she says, is that much closer thanks to Loblaw’s support.  

“This just gets me that much closer to my ultimate goal, which is to be able to work one-on-one with people in the way that they need, and not have to think, ‘Oh, I have student loans to pay back.’ It has shifted the trajectory of my life. Instead of all of these additional mountains that I need to climb, things have become so much easier. I cannot describe how much I appreciate that.”