Professor Hunter, my family (Uncle Kelly, Mom and Grandparents) have and have always had great confidence in me. This is where my strength comes from. Like most youth/students (First Nations, Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal), there is a mixture of confusion, fear and excitement about what to do next.
In the fall of 2006, while I was having a chat with my mentor professor at the University of Saskatchewan in her office, she said to me, “So, what’s next?” Professor Hunter had always challenged me to think big and push myself. At the time, I was 22, had my BA and was working toward completing my certificate in Aboriginal Public Administration. She asked a great question that was coming from a good place. What in fact, was next for me? How do I get there? Can I do it?
I had always thought about law school and decided early on that this was the direction I wanted to take. But sometimes in life, we are faced with unexpected and fortunate turns. During my undergraduate work, I was drawn to policy courses. Policy was an area that interested me because of the implications for positive change it possessed. After taking the time to learn, explore and be engaged in the university experience, I found an area of study that resonated with me. Perhaps I could build on this passion?
Professor Hunter suggested that I look into graduate school. Having seen graduate students around campus and getting a glimpse into their workload, it seemed like an intimidating scenario. Me? Get a masters degree? That seemed out of reach and out of my grasp. The questions again resurfaced: Could this be next for me? How do I get there? Could I do it?
I applied to graduate school and I did it for me. I believed in my strengths as a person, student and competitor. I knew that I would have support from my network of family, friends and community. At the end of the day, I am accountable for my actions and this is what I wanted to do.
Ultimately, I wanted to attend Simon Fraser University (SFU). SFU was attractive to me because of the reputation the school has nationally, the faculty in the Public Policy program. The day I received my acceptance letter from SFU was the day I literally jumped for joy. As quickly as the excitement arose, so too did the question, “So, what next?”
Graduate school isn’t a walk in the park. The workload is not particularly easy, the nights can be long but in the end, it’s very rewarding. On the days that were tougher than others, I would reflect back to the party my family threw for me the day before I packed my car for the west coast. It’s a two-day drive from Saskatoon to Vancouver. I was now 23 years old. My family members hugged and kissed me that day and all said they were proud of me. Each of them gave me a card with encouraging words, which I still have to this day stored safely. My family inspires and gives me strength.
When I completed my studies at SFU, I was ecstatic, relieved and optimistic about my future. And just as soon as these emotions emerged, so too did the question, “So, what’s next?”