Honouring NorQuest students at the Indigenous Completion Ceremony

June 21, 2023

Honouring NorQuest students at the Indigenous Completion Ceremony

The NorQuest community proudly gathered on June 16 to honour and recognize Indigenous graduates for reaching their academic goals. Every year the families, friends and instructors of Indigenous students come together at the Indigenous Completion Ceremony, a celebration of their achievement. This year, 140 students are receiving various credentials.

Sharing the joy of achievement 

Administrative Professional program student and proud mom Brandy Burden chose NorQuest because it is a reputable, well-known college. She is most proud of her high grades as she worked very hard to get them. Her professional organizing business closed in part due to Covid, then for the first 6-12 months of the program she also worked part-time as a nanny. Further personal struggles including a divorce and her daughter’s hospitalization made it incredibly challenging to continue with her studies but Brandy persevered. “At the beginning of the Spring 2022 term, I considered dropping out of accounting, in fact, but tried even harder to catch up and pass. I ended up getting a B,” she shares.  A talented singer (she sang "Oh Canada" at the NorQuest Convocation and won second at venue finals in the Karaoke World Championships) Brandy hopes to secure an office management job after receiving her diploma. 

Justice Studies student Corrina Ominayak loved the small classes and diversity of NorQuest while completing upgrading. She returned after four years to enroll in Social Work, but the new program caught her eye. Corrina overcame self-doubt and stress about going back to school as a mature student and an Indigenous person with personal trauma surrounding teachers. She juggled working shifts at a retirement living facility and attending school. She accessed the Indigenous Centre, where the Elders helped her settle in and feel confident in her schoolwork. They helped her with finding and applying for scholarships and bursaries that she previously did not know about. The library was also a great comfort for her. She notes that she learned so much about herself and is proud to receive her qualification.  

“I am 43 years young! Graduating with a diploma has made my family proud,” she says. Her hope is to work with Indigenous youth in restorative justice or as a navigator for youth involved in the justice system. 

Jade Cardinal was an alum of NorQuest before enrolling again in the Health Care Aide program. She was grateful for the flexibility to work online during the pandemic while homeschooling her daughters. During her last practicum, Jade had an adverse reaction to a vaccine which meant deferring her studies to the following summer term. This makes her completion even sweeter. 

“I was a role model for my daughters as all three of us were at school at the same time, showing them that hard work pays off, even if I had to finish a year later.” 

Currently a safety coordinator for a 100% indigenous-owned company, she hopes to go home to her community in Saddle Lake Cree Nation in the future and work as a Health Care Aide and create other opportunities for health workers. 

Rod Anderson started in the Arts and Sciences Program and then transferred to the Indigenous Studies Program. While there were the usual struggles that come from going to post-secondary school for the first time, Rod notes that because of the supportive environment, it was not too much to worry about at NorQuest. 

“While I had the support of an academic advisor and my instructors, I also tried to become a support system to my classmates when they needed it. I would also like to thank Indspire for the funding needed to finish the program and aid in other endeavors.” 

As one of the first students in the Indigenous Studies Program, he loved reliving the work he did in his high school Aboriginal Studies class, while learning more about Indigenous culture and knowledge and how it reflects what he sees and believes today. Learning more about his Metis heritage recently, Rod is excited to share the knowledge he has with others. Outside of student life, Rod shared that he is proud of putting the skills he learned to practical use, from knitting a gift for his nephew to soapstone carving.  

“Now that I have my diploma, I know it will lead me to success no matter where it takes me,” says Rod.  

Community support worker Danielle Dallaire is delighted by her impressive 3.82 GPA. After finishing high school in 1992, becoming a health and safety officer, and raising her children, Danielle returned to school at 48 years old.  

“My first week at school a lot of people thought I was the instructor!” she quips, “But I enjoyed being back in class with others, especially in Indigenous World Views, my favourite class.”  

Danielle was able to secure a job as an inner-city case worker with Boyle Street, before her classes even finished. She is glad that she was able to move and start living in downtown Edmonton. 

Not only was Shanna Omeasoo attracted by NorQuest’s Community Support Worker and Child and Youth Care programs, when she heard of the Indigenous Student Centre she knew she had found a home on campus. “The Indigenous Centre was awesome! It offered a quiet place for me to work in between classes and a space to learn more about my Cree culture. I was able to get sage and sweet grass when needed from George the Knowledge Keeper too. The RBC Mentorship Program also was an amazing support. I was able to learn how to make two types of ribbon skirts with them and received an award my first year at NorQuest.”  

Shanna notes that breaking stereotypes and educating peers about Indigenous people by pursuing post-secondary studies motivated her. Balancing being a mother of two while being in school full-time is something Shanna is proud of. She praised the openness of NorQuest and the support she received from her classmates and instructors.  

“I wouldn't have been so successful in school if it wasn't for the support of my family and instructors. The instructors I had were so encouraging and understanding, they really made me feel like I could be open to telling them what was going on. Having them check in throughout my courses really made me feel a sense of belonging. And the biggest joy was that I was hired within less than a week of finishing my final courses for Child and Youth Care, and I am graduating with Honours.” 

Ashton Rabbit first heard about NorQuest from an old friend who attended the college and spoke highly of their academic journey. Ashton was enrolled in Academic upgrading. Despite living in a recovery home for the majority of his studies and working in construction at the same time, the budding poet was able to complete his upgrading with top marks and proudly overcame 'test anxiety' during the semester. 

“My aspiration is to attend university and become a psychologist specializing in trauma, addictions and family violence. I am part of the Edmonton Sober Homies outreach group which serves our brothers and sisters within the high-risk community in the inner city of Edmonton.” 

Ashton shared his poem to encourage other learners to take that first step. 

Land of the Unknown by Ashton Rabbit  

I feel it in the air,  

I feel it in my bones, like a cold winter breeze - freezing the heart icy cold, A place where I called home.  

A shattered world is something I leave behind,  

Leaving everything I have once ever known, embarking on the journey they call the "circle of life"  

A land of the unknown.  

Pondering if I will ever make it, what will become of me?  

In the land of the Red Road.  

As the days go on, I sit and speak with our heavenly father asking for guidance and His will for me, phrasing the words ‘take my will and my life, let it be shown’ 

 Suddenly, I can feel it in the air, I can feel it in my bones, like a warm summer breeze - here lies where my heart is, balmy, a place where I can call home.

Students walking into the atrium President's medal Rob Gurney receiving his credentials Traditional drumming started the Ceremony The welcome desk

NorQuest College is committed to the inclusion of all learners through having on-campus resources to help diverse students find community, support, and assistance, ensuring they achieve their highest academic and personal potential. In addition to a host of academic programs and courses, NorQuest College has dedicated Indigenous student services, an Indigenous Education Resource Guide, and the Indigenous Student Centre which also provides opportunities for land-based learning. NorQuest is incredibly grateful for the Indigenous culture, teachings, and wisdom that enriches our college, and we wish all graduates success in the future!