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SFU Student

Mary Temple at her graduation

If you want something bad enough, never give up. Life has many obstacles and many lessons, but where there is a will there is a way

Mary Temple will be completing her degree at SFU in the fall. Read about her experiences with her education thus far.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Northern BC. I travelled a lot with my mother. For a few years I lived in foster care in different villages of the Nass Valley. I left home at an early age and found myself couch surfing on friends couches wherever I could. At the age of 17 is when my life became more stable. I lived with my best friend who is now my husband, we lived in Terrace and Prince Rupert going wherever the job opportunities presented themselves. Fast forward 18 years and we now live in Vancouver and have lived here for the past 10 or 11 years.

What were some of the challenges you faced growing up?

My parents suffered a lot as a result of going to residential school and this had an effect on the way they parented me. Addiction was a big problem in my family. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, power, and money. Abuse was another problem. I've experienced abuse of all kinds. Physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse. I've seen and experienced it all. Abandonment was a huge issue I faced. It caused me to rebel and self sabotage a lot.

What is your fondest childhood memory?

My fondest childhood memories were when I lived with my grandparents. My grandparents were Christians and lived a great life. They taught me about culture, tradition and simply lived in peace. There was no electricity where they lived, so we spent a lot of time just being together. They taught me how to live off the land.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a dancer. I would watch music videos of professional dancers like Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul, I'd practice the dance moves whenever I had time alone, which was a lot.

When did you start thinking about attending post-secondary?

I always pictured myself being some 'important' person in a business suit and driving a flashy car. I knew the only way to be that person was to get an education. I was never sure what I wanted to do with myself, I just knew whatever it was, was going to take a lot of hard work and dedication.

What were some of the reasons you decided to further your education?

I wanted my sons, nieces and nephews to know that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. People can say the words, but to see it being done makes it real. I wanted to show them. They were my motivation, but now that I completed 2 successful years of college I want to prove to myself that anything is possible. I'm excited to see what can be.

Give a brief timeline of your schooling experience.

Grade K-6 I went to school on the reservation in the Nass Valley. I learned my language, practiced tradition and culture everyday. I was being groomed to be a matriarch one day. I'm still learning what my role will be. 

  • Part of grade 7- I spent time in the city with my mother, it was the first time I spent a lot of time with people of different nationalities. Because of the type of lifestyle I was accustomed to, I began experimenting with drugs and alcohol around this time. This caused my mother to send me back to my father in the Nass Valley. 

  • Grade 7-8: I attempted to go back to school on the reservation, was bullied a lot in school, and home was not a healthy place to be so I left. I moved to Terrace BC. I lived with relatives for a while, then couch surfed because they couldn't handle the life I was living. 

  • Grade 8-9: I tried to attend Skeena Jr High in Terrace but the curriculum was too much for me to handle after coming from a school on the reservation. The workload was a lot compared to what I was used to so I fell behind real fast which caused me to try an alternate program. I did really well there for a while until I became interested more in the substance abuse. I didn't have a lot of healthy, motivated people in my life at that time to help me stay on the right track.

  • I dropped out of school at grade 9. 
I attempted to go back to school a few times after having my children, I never did complete a full year but I did continue with independant study. I would try correspondence and adult ed programs, but again didn't complete any. 

  • When my third son was about 2 years old, I decided to go back to school and really give it my best shot. I only did two classes, math and english, it was all I could handle at the time with 3 children at home. I did really well and impressed myself. I received and A- in english and a B+ in math. I completed that program and graduated to grade 11 math and english. 

  • My family moved to Vancouver so my husband could find work and I stayed home to care for the kids. I kept on with independant study off and on, always keeping in mind that one day I would be persuing my career so I'd need to keep my mind fresh. 
I had one more son, we knew he'd be our last child because I really wanted to get started with my career.

  • When my son turned 5 and was able to go to school full time, I hit that ground running. I had been a stay at home momma for 15 years. It was time for me to see what I was made of. 
I went to Native Education College to write an assessment test, expecting to be at a grade 10 level and being ready to attend there for upgrading for a couple of years before I began college. I wrote the CAAT Exam and found out I was at a post secondary level. I asked what that meant and the lady told me that I was ready for college now if I wanted to apply as a mature student. I jumped at the opportunity and applied for the Aboriginal Justice Studies program at NEC. I was accepted right away, so I applied for a student loan to get me started. I wasn't going to waste one more day.

  • I completed that program and moved on to NVIT where I graduated with my Associate of Arts Degree Major in Criminology.

Share your experience of:

Getting funding (sponsorship, student loan, scholarship etc.)

My first year of college I received a student loan from Student Aid BC. 
My second year of college I received funding from my band. They paid for my tuition, books, and gave me a living allowence.

Share a time when you wanted to quit

In my second year of college, I was at NVIT. I was taking five Courses at the time. 
I found out my mother had cancer, I wanted to quit. It was a difficult time for my family. She had a lot of doctor appointments, I had a lot of assignments due, and I had my four children to tend to, and my father was not well. I wanted to drop everything and go back to when it was easy, when all I did was take care of the kids and my parents. But luckily for me I had a great support group to help me get through the rough times. My mother had surgery and no longer has cancer. My father ended up being alright.

Share your proudest moment

My proudest moments are when my children work harder on their assignments because they see how hard I work. I love it when they talk about what they want to do with their futures.

Where are you currently in respect to your education? Do you think you are finished? Or do you wish to go further?

I am currently waiting for September to come so I can begin my studies toward a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a Major in Psychology at Simon Fraser University. My ultimate goal I wish to reach is to become a Doctor. I wish to be a family psychologist. But for now, we'll see how the next few years go. Baby steps

What advice do you have to offer other Indigenous students?

If you want something bad enough, never give up. Life has many obstacles and many lessons, but where there is a will there is a way. If at first you don't succeed, try try again.

SFU Student
Christina Coolidge is currently attending SFU as a graduate student in the department of Communications. She is the Indigenous Program Researcher with the Career Services department. Christina is a member of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and her matrilineal ancestry includes Metis (Cree and Scottish) from the Red River area. She hopes to help build a bridge between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous communities in order to better understand one another and to live together in a spirit of unity.
visibility  100
Jun 2, 2013

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