Kari Lentowicz always knew she would have to go out into the world to gather the skills and abilities she needed to help her community at home.
“I’ve always been passionate about the environment and I wanted to make an impact, to work for the betterment of my community, but I knew I didn’t know enough,” she says. “I knew I had to build my own capacity to help my community build its capacity.”
So at 18, Lentowicz left Denare Beach, her Northern Saskatchewan home town of about 800 people on Treaty 10 territory, to start her educational journey. Along the path, she has earned a bachelor’s degree in toxicology, a master’s certificate in project management, and her Master of Arts in Disaster and Emergency Management degree from Royal Roads.
“Post-secondary education was the key,” she says. “It gave me access to a plethora of information and insights—through research, case studies, lessons learned, exposure to other industry leaders—all the things that let you re-imagine the ways you can achieve your own goals and the goals for your community.”
But Lentowicz says her post-secondary studies would not have been possible without financial support.
“Even though I had the passion, the scholastic ability and the parental and community support, I couldn’t have done it without the scholarships I received all through my academic career.”
Lentowicz says exposure to academic and professional language is critical for successful collaboration and leadership.
“Language barriers got us to where we are now,” she says. “Indigenous systems of beliefs, values, and ways of doing things weren’t taken care of when treaties were signed. We need access to the same levels of post-secondary education so we can leverage the conversations happening now, and ensure we have common understandings when we communicate what we want.”
Back home in Denare Beach, knowledge-sharing and capacity-building is at very heart of her work as a management consultant, a volunteer firefighter and the driving force behind Diamonds in the Rough—a non-profit organization raising the profile and presence of women in the traditionally male-dominated industries of emergency management and mine rescue.
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.