Cole Cappo becomes first graduate of an all-new program at FNUniv
- Liam O’Connor | December 21, 2022
A brand new program that offers a certificate at the First Nations University (FNUniv) is called the Indigenous Journalism and Communication program (INJC).
INJC is designed to be a one-year, 30 credit program, and it launched during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021. Students learn a number of different journalistic disciplines, such as print, broadcast and social media.
Recently in the 2022 Fall convocation group, Cole Cappo became the first person to graduate from the INJC program.
Cole is a 29-year-old from Muscowpetung First Nation and expressed that his family members were the ones to push him to get this certificate.
“My family, they just mess around, and they call it the degree club,” said Cole. “Like, everybody’s got a degree and I need a degree to get into the degree club.”
When Cole graduated from high school he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord and, ultimately, causes numerous mobility issues.
Cole’s mother Candace Cappo described the diagnosis as a “shift” that occurred in their family and Cole’s life.
“We didn’t know a lot about it. We were told that First Nations people don’t get MS,” said Candace. “So, there was this whole process of grieving that we went through that our lives were changing because our son had this condition that we didn’t really understand or know about.”
Lower rates of MS in Indigenous people is true; it is also a deceptive statistic because of how quickly the rates of MS are increasing in Indigenous people — according to mssociety.ca:
A 2018, a study led by Dr. Ruth Ann Marrie looked at First Nations Peoples in Manitoba using population-based administrative data over a 25-year period (between 1984 to 2011) and showed that although rates of MS in First Nations populations are lower than the general population, prevalence of MS is increasing at a dramatic rate – a 351 per cent increase over this period amongst First Nations peoples versus a 225 percent increase the non-First Nations population.
Despite the unfortunate circumstance, Cole trudged on with the support of his family and advisors. Sometimes that support took the form of Candace or students in the program helping Cole type out his articles or transcribe interviews for him.
When asked about what made him land on journalism and communication, Cole said it was a mix of Shannon Avison — the program coordinator of Indigenous Communication Arts — and his keen interest in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).
“My other motivation is I’m into mixed martial arts and the journalist Ariel Helwani, and I’ve been following him since his start.”
Ariel Helwani is a Canadian and one of the most well-known MMA journalists in the industry. Avison has had the chance to teach, not only Cole but also his father, mother, sister and brother — who now all have business degrees from the First Nations University. She had many fond memories working with and instructing Cole in the program.
“Cheeky, super cheeky,” Avison joked. “For all the things he’s been through, he is so joyful and cheers on the other students and he’s just absolutely a delight to have as a student.”
Candance said her goal was always to have all her children graduate high school because she and her husband were both in Residential School when they were kids and Candace never finished high school. So, all of the business degrees, certificates and success are just the “cherry on top” for her.