When Haylee Garson packed for summer camp, the 14-year-old had no clue it would inspire her career plans.
But the National Summer Science Camp for First Nations and Inuit youth did just that.
Garson, from Fisher River First Nation, is one of about 45 students from communities across Canada participating in the camp at the University of Manitoba this week. It's an annual event that takes place in different provinces every summer.
"We learned about aboriginal medicines," said Garson with a grin. "We went to pick sweetgrass, and I want to study medicine at university when I go... aboriginal medicine."
Garson's experience is exactly what this summer science camp is all about, said Rudy Subedar, manager of integrated programs at the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. "The purpose is to raise the interest in science among the students," he said.
Youth aged 12 to 15 are eligible, and this year they're staying in residence at the U of M.
"The students were downtown at the medical college, and in the afternoon they went to St. Boniface Research Centre where they did hands-on activities," Subedar said.
"It's great they are staying in residence because that gives them the campus life -- they get to see and become inspired by post-secondary studies."
For Manitoba First Nations and Inuit students, the first step to being selected to attend the summer science camp is to enter the Manitoba First Nations Science Fair, a provincial-level event that attracts around 400 students each year.
"Students who enter the science fair who do well but maybe don't win a trip to the national science fair, those students are next in line to come to camp," Subedar said.
Hunter Francis, 14, was selected to come to camp this summer and raved about delicious meals and making "lots of friends," before an afternoon learning about civil and mechanical engineering.
"Man, like, this camp is something else," Francis said.
Francis is from the Eel Ground First Nation in New Brunswick. When asked about his favourite camp activity, he couldn't choose just one.
"We went out in the woods and they had archery there, they had dancing. There was swimming and fishing and, in fact, our meal was Indian tacos, and they were so good," he said.
Unlike Garson, Francis does not know quite yet what he would like to study, but he "definitely wants to go to university," he said.