Sheila’s Journey

“Despite the challenges, you can succeed.”

When I was young, I felt that, like other children who are Aboriginal, I couldn’t succeed. There were signs all around me suggesting that Aboriginal people didn’t finish school or move on to postsecondary education. I will never forget early memories of travelling to school on the bus where my brothers and I faced extreme forms of racism and bullying. These experiences instilled in me a deep desire to succeed.

Until I was 13 years old, I was always uncertain about school, never really feeling like I fit in or that I was very smart. Then, in grade eight, I had a teacher who instilled in me a belief that I could achieve much more academically. It was because of him that I decided to take the advanced program in high school to prepare myself for university.

I have always wanted to make changes in the postsecondary community so that schools are better and more welcoming places for Aboriginal learners. I completed my PhD in 2010 and my educational journey has given me the confidence, skills, knowledge, and ability to give back to the Aboriginal community at our universities in a very meaningful way. Today, as Associate Vice President, Academic and Indigenous Programs at Laurentian University, I have helped to bring a strong Indigenous perspective and some important changes to our institution.

Be persistent and committed to your life goals. Despite the challenges, you can succeed. Look for people who can support you and don’t be afraid to lean on others from time to time.