Role Models

Let’s Take Our Future Further

There are over 6,500 Aboriginal learners studying at Ontario universities and thousands of Aboriginal alumni. Standing strong on the shoulders of those who have come before them, today’s learners are blazing their own trails of achievement. We have the opportunity to support and accelerate this momentum – to take our future in inspiring directions. Aboriginal learners are telling their stories, and we’re celebrating their achievements.
As the number of Aboriginal learners continues to grow, so too does the volume and richness of their stories.  Through this initiative, Ontario’s 20 publicly funded universities are promoting awareness of the achievements of these learners and how they are making a difference in communities across Ontario – and indeed, Canada. The campaign also seeks to improve Aboriginal learner attraction, retention and completion at Ontario universities by demonstrating the holistic benefits of a university education, and promoting a positive view of postsecondary education within Aboriginal communities.
Each of the stories that we have highlighted is unique and, at the same time, universal.  While their experiences are different, all of our role models have overcome some sort of adversity to achieve their goals, from family responsibilities, to financial challenges, to self-doubt.  They have all remained steadfast on their path and found a way to build a bridge between 2 cultures, weaving a piece of themselves into the fabric of both places.
This section contains profiles of Aboriginal learners from across Ontario who have all defined their view of success on their own terms – shaping not only their future, but also the future generations of Aboriginal learners to come.

It takes courage to take a chance on yourself.

Kelly’s Journey

I grew up in the Timmins area, which is a community still struggling to increase inclusivity for Aboriginal populations. As a result, I was not open about my Aboriginal ancestry growing up. It wasn’t until I moved away for postsecondary education that I found my voice as a Métis woman. I got involved at the Aboriginal Resource Centre available for undergraduate students at Wilfrid Laurier University and began receiving teaching from Elders.

Be better than you ever thought you can be.

Brandon’s Journey

When I graduated high school, my options were either to continue my studies or to find a job. I had to really buckle down to find out what I truly wanted in life. I chose to attend college first and then university, and I have never regretted my choice. My success at college gave me the confidence to pursue a degree in First Nations Studies. Following graduation, I plan on pursuing a Bachelor of Education so I can teach youth about Aboriginal peoples’ histories, cultures and languages.


Despite the challenges, you can succeed.

Sheila’s Journey

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.


A degree speaks to the strength of
your character.

Haven’s Journey

My parents have always wanted me to make every effort to get as far as I can in life. As a child I was expected to complete some sort of postsecondary education, whether it be college, university or an apprenticeship. I have now graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering. Community was an integral part of my university experience and success – professors, staff and recruiters all helped to get me where I am today. They gave me the support that I needed to push through everything, to keep my head up and my mind on track. This is why I’m currently working with Indigenous youth to get them interested in engineering.

Be a role model to
future generations.

Raigelee’s Journey

I have always tried to be a role model to my children in every way and encourage them to follow my footsteps. But it is time that my grandchildren take these steps and be the future of the new generation. It’s important for me that my children and grandchildren can live their dreams.

Success lies in
the willingness to welcome change.

Elizabeth’s Journey

My thirst for knowledge, which led me to apply to university, has helped me to stare down my fear of change. I had always known that I wanted to pursue further education, but I had no idea that I would eventually end up enrolling in a graduate program and being passionate about a subject that I hadn’t even known existed. My master’s thesis focuses on investigating the midsole material of footwear to possibly increase older adults’ balance for those at risk of falling.

University has helped me believe in myself.

Lillian’s Journey

My childhood was extremely traumatic, and school was a safe haven for me. I loved being there. It was a place where I could forget about my troubles, and I loved learning new ideas. It was this love of learning and my dream of becoming all that I was meant to be that brought me back to education. Being a single mother, I knew that it was imperative that I be a positive role model for my son.

Pursue your passion in life and transform your future.

Amy’s Journey

I didn’t have big aspirations in high school, and it wasn’t until my third year of university, when I met the Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, that this really changed. He suggested that I pursue a master’s degree. I suddenly saw my academic career differently, and I applied to do a Master’s of Indigenous Relations program. I knew it was the right path for me. I am currently studying how Ontario’s health care system integrates important Aboriginal cultural practices into its protocols for care.

With each challenge I learn more about who I am and what I’m capable of.

Chris’s Journey

At 6 years old I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), and by the time I reached high school, I realized that this diagnosis would prevent me from being a police officer – a career that I had dreamed about from a young age. I was also diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which created additional obstacles for me – I had to learn techniques to help myself focus, which often proved challenging in a school setting.

I have a chance to drive change and help my people.

Joshua’s Journey

People in my community are very encouraging to me when I am home. They motivate me to stick with my studies and to be successful. Attending university has given me a strong sense of pride, self-respect and self-esteem, and I am looking forward to continuing my education journey.

There are always oppor-tunities to gain new skills and grow as a person.

Isaac’s Journey

I am currently studying Biological Science. Once I graduate, I’d like to attend medical school in my hometown of Ottawa. I plan to use my medical degree to work with Health Canada on public policy issues in the area of First Nations health and wellness. Another one of my goals is to serve as a good role model for my friends and family, and pursuing higher education has helped me to realize this objective.

We live our lives through our teachings.

Darren’s Journey

People in my community are very encouraging to me when I am home. They motivate me to stick with my studies and to be successful. Attending university has given me a strong sense of pride, self-respect, and self-esteem and I am looking forward to continuing my education journey.

You have the power to create the change you want to see.

Donna’s Journey

When I arrived at university for the first time, I was challenged with learning how to live on my own, away from my family. But I found a new family and community among the friends that I met. The Aboriginal Student Centre on campus played a particularly big role in this. It was there that I began to understand the unique challenges Aboriginal peoples face, especially when it comes to pursuing postsecondary education.