Ambassadors

Andrea

  • InstituteGrande Prairie Regional College
  • ProgramSocial Work
  • RegionNorth

As a young Indigenous woman, I look forward to using my unique insights and perspectives to create positive social change.

I was born and raised in small-town northern Alberta. I was on the junior high basketball team, and also ran cross-country (mostly to get in shape for basketball season). An outgoing kid, I was naturally good at school and my grades were always above 80%. Near the end of grade eight my family and I had to move to Calgary. I remember promising my friends that I’d never turn into a “city girl.” 

In Calgary I found it hard to make new friends and to make things worse, my new school didn’t have a basketball team so I couldn’t even play the sport I loved. I was homesick and my grades started to plummet. Grade nine math was hard for me, and my parents had to hire a tutor just so I could grasp basic algebra concepts.

In grade ten I had to make another school switch and take the plunge from junior high to high school. My high school had 2,500 students, which was half the size of my hometown! I was completely overwhelmed and, to make matters worse, my parents were also separating at the time. I was going through a tough time, and began skipping school regularly.

By the time I got to grade twelve I was called into the vice-principal’s office with my parents, where I was warned that I might not graduate. That was a wake-up call, for sure. I signed a contract with the school and promised that I wouldn’t skip anymore classes. I graduated on time, with the bare-minimum grades and credits I needed. After high school my mom moved back to northern Alberta, and I went with her.

My parents encouraged me to go to college after I graduated, but I needed a break from school. I took a year off and worked some very random jobs: waitress, gas station clerk, laborer for a local insulating company. I had no direction, and it was around this time my mom sat me down and gave me a stern talking to about my future.

My mom helped me scour college pamphlets to figure out what program to take. I was always a creative person so when I mentioned that I might be interested in the graphic design program at SAIT my mom ran with it. Before I knew it, I was enrolled. Long story short: I enjoyed the program, and with my education I got a job at a local print shop where I worked as a junior graphic designer for a year creating posters, brochures, and other marketing materials for local businesses.

Around the age of 22 I started wanting to learn more about my Cree and Metis roots so I applied for a summer job helping to run day camps for kids at my local Friendship Centre. I felt like I had finally come home at that place, and ended up doing youth programming there for the next six years. So many young people I’ve worked with have a story like mine: they moved from a small community to a big city, didn’t have many friends at school, were often going through tough stuff at home, and struggled to participate in cultural activities.

I want to be able to be the best support I can be to the young people I work with and it’s for that reason that I’ve decided to go back to school a second time. Currently, I’m a second-year student at Grande Prairie Regional College, and this spring I will be applying to the University of Calgary to complete my degree in Social Work.

As an Indigenous student I’ve received funding from various organizations including the National Indian Brotherhood Trust, Indspire, and the Northern Alberta Development Council. I recognize the investment that these organizations have made in my education, and I feel a responsibility to give back. I regularly volunteer at local events and serve as President of the Circle of Indigenous Students at GPRC. I also balance my studies with being a mom of two young girls. When I get overwhelmed, instead of thinking of how far I have left to go, I think about how far I’ve come.

Oct 17, 2017
Exploring Interests Career Choices