Education as an opportunity

Jeannette LaBrie is a Métis grad living in Edmonton, Alberta. She recently graduated from the Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and Leadership program.

I have always viewed education as an opportunity for growth. It has been a lifelong experience taking me to a variety of classrooms and allowed me to demonstrate the benefits of learning to my daughter. I am grateful, in my latest educational experience, that my daughter was also in university. We were students together, learning from each other, sharing information, and asking questions.

My mom had a very different, negative experience in school. She was teased by her classmates and called racist names, which led to her dropping out in Grade 10. Hearing her stories, I downplayed my Métis heritage growing up because I didn’t want to share the same awful encounters that my mom had to endure. I was so fearful I would be judged or treated differently.

My Cocum (Kokum – grandmother) was key to my culture. She shared stories of growing up in St. Albert, berry picking, spending time at the lake, and travelling by horse and wagon to dances. She spoke Cree and eventually learned English. She loved to watch her great-grandchildren do the Red River Jig. She was the one of the women who made me proud of who I was, who shared the most of my culture with me, and the person I could be myself around. She passed away 12 years ago, so I lost some of that connection. I eventually found my way again and reached out to people in my life to continue to experience culture through my own discovery. Instead of hiding who I was, I embraced what it means to be an Indigenous student.

My learning experience at Royal Roads has been enlightening, as I learned theory and concepts that I could apply in a real-world setting. Along the way, I also gained academic skills to share with my daughter in her studies.

Education has always been an essential part of my life. I went to high school in Sherwood Park, Alberta, then completed a journalism diploma. I became a reporter and producer for a local television station. After several years working in news, I began a new career as an instructor at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). That experience led to a leadership role, first as a department head and then my current position as an associate dean. During my time at NAIT, I completed my Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communications and then applied for the Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and Leadership program at Royal Roads.

I’m very grateful for the experience and the lifelong friendships with my classmates. It was just at the right time in my life. As you’re learning, sometimes there are tough days, and you wonder, “Can I do this?” but you put your head down and get through it. It is rewarding to be able to challenge yourself and overcome barriers. There’s always room to keep changing, evolving, and growing. The more you learn, the more experiences you have to share and to help others access life changing learning opportunities.

As part of The Tomorrow Makers campaign for Indigenous student success and research grants, we’re sharing stories of Indigenous alumni who are making a difference in the world. You can help future Indigenous leaders tackle climate change, sustainability and community development for this generation and for those to come. You can be a Tomorrow Maker by supporting one today.