When our Indigenous scholarship recipients pictured what attending post-secondary school would look like, we doubt they imagined they would be in the middle of a pandemic and attending classes virtually. Yet, despite going through what might be one of the most significant events of their lifetimes, our scholarship recipients are thriving academically and continuing to follow their post-secondary dreams.

We recently reached out to a few of our Indigenous scholarships recipients to see what their experience has been like attending post-secondary during the pandemic and how they maintain their wellness. Here’s what they had to say.

Has the pandemic impacted your ability to focus on your studies? 

Amanda Knight: The pandemic has been a great hindrance in the location spots available for doing schoolwork. As my studies are online and distance, I spent most of my time at the library or in a café or food court setting with Wi-Fi. These areas have been prohibited for the better part of a year, so it has made that aspect difficult. Conversely, the pandemic put me in a position of unemployment, so I was able to consider furthering my education. 

Chantel Dobson-Redman: Most people would say this pandemic affected their lives immensely, but it gave me a chance to work towards something. When the school I worked for closed its doors for the student’s and staff’s safety I was able to work from home, which allowed me to focus a little more on my studies and attend in-class zoom meetings.

Michelle Fournie: Being a student during the pandemic has been difficult, but I know I am meant to study now because I have the support of my family, which many parents don’t. I know we are all struggling and that we can help each other, especially fellow students.

Saige Arcand: The pandemic has significantly impacted my ability to focus on my studies for sure. I am not going to lie, it has been very challenging but I am very lucky to have my family and friends to help support me as I do for them throughout this pandemic.

What do you do to maintain your wellness, whether it’s physical, mental, financial or social?  

Michelle: At the moment, as it is for many, I am attempting mindfulness and prayer through ceremony and medicines. I am very new at these practices but I am willing to practice and learn. I found it necessary to maintain sanity during the pandemic and have found it to create resilience in myself so I do not get so overwhelmed.

Saige: Wellness in all aspects is important to me. Having a strong spiritual practice has helped me significantly. I try my best to pray, smudge and practice gratitude every day, which also helps my mental, spiritual and emotional wellness. I try to really tune in and listen to my body. If I am tired then I try to prioritize rest. If I am feeling lethargic then I try to eat more nutritious foods and get more exercise. It really depends on what I need on that day. I’m a mother of two so making wellness and self care a priority is essential so I can be my best self to better care for my girls and my loved ones.

Amanda: I love to stay active and be outdoors. I love to exercise. I need it. My favorite is running. Fresh air, nature and the endorphins always give me a boost. I find journaling and mediation to have a calming effect as well. It has been important to establish balance with school, family and self-care. I like to keep connected with other people in some way as well.

Chantel: I believe it’s important to incorporate self-care into our lives; whether it be a long walk with my dogs or reading a good book in the bathtub, I make it a priority that I schedule myself time to rewind and relax. As for social wellness, the pandemic has made it hard to socialize with family and friends, and in this area I have had to learn to be creative. I’ve had group face time calls with cousins, great aunts and siblings, as well as socially distanced walks with my favourite aunt. I’ve also put myself out there and made new friendships by reaching out to classmates.

We’re proud of the achievement of all our scholarship recipients, especially during this past year and a half. We believe education opens doors to young Albertans to lead better lives. For this reason, we’re committed to easing some of the financial barriers for students in Alberta through our scholarship programs.

Our scholarships for Indigenous students work to address the education inequity faced by Indigenous peoples in Alberta by making post-secondary studies more financially accessible. Check out our website if you’d like to learn more about our scholarship programs.

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