Crystal Thompson

Social Work

Crystal Thompson at her desk at the Government of Alberta Ministry of Seniors and Housing.

From little education to college grad in four years

Crystal Thompson is a 40-year-old Alexander First Nation member and graduate of NorQuest College’s Social Work Program.

Her stats:

  • Upgraded at NorQuest, 2014-2015

  • NorQuest College social work graduate, 2017

  • Now on a two-year paid internship as a registered social worker/community initiatives analyst with the Government of Alberta (Seniors and Housing) thanks to the Alberta Indigenous Internship Program (AIIP)

What drew you to social work?

My past challenges. I used to work a job centre on 118 Avenue helping inner city families and I felt like I was going in circles and that I wasn’t really helping them. I felt I needed a social work education to actually know how to help them properly.

On being an Indigenous student at NorQuest

When I was low income I felt I was stereotyped because I was an Indigenous person. People weren’t actually giving me help. That made me want to help people. When I started understanding my own past – and a lot of that came from being at NorQuest – I started learning about my culture, about residential schools. My future became more about helping my people overcome the things that they didn’t even know were wrong.

What would you say to people considering taking social work at NorQuest?

When I first came to NorQuest I had very little education. I didn’t even know how to write an essay. So I was able to get help from the tutor centre and get some other extra help too.

Being an adult and going back to school for an education, with little education to begin with, is not an easy thing. I was really scared. I didn’t want to admit what I didn’t know. But the supports and the people, the teachers, the indigenous mentors, and other students helped me discover who I am.

The instructors took the time. If I called or I emailed them or I stayed after class, they always took the time. In my first year of upgrading my teacher made such an impact on my education. You know when you have that once-in-a-lifetime teacher? I had her in English.

The real world and your NorQuest education

I do a lot of high-end writing now. Now I am writing to government. I have succeeded and achieved a lot of things, but my growth in my writing really makes me happy.

Getting an education. How did that help your family?

For Indigenous people we talk about that seven generation cycle. So, seven generations of trauma and being stuck in the colonial mindset. I was stuck and I didn’t even know I was there. Now, I have changed the stars for my kids. My kids see me get up every day and go to work, and see me going to school. I am an inspiration for my kids.

What’s in your future?

I want to have my own not-for-profit. That’s what it is all about working here. NorQuest made this paid internship possible and now that I am here I am learning policy, writing, how to apply for grants, about how they do things up at the top. From that I can start something meaningful and hopefully see it grow.

Crystal’s growth is far from over. At NorQuest, the college helps people with diverse educational backgrounds complete or further their studies. Today, Crystal’s NorQuest education has paved the way for further learning. She is currently studying at the Yellowhead Tribal College in Edmonton earning her Indigenous Bachelor of Social Work degree.

When I first came to NorQuest I had very little education. I was really scared. But the people, the teachers, the indigenous mentors, and other students helped me discover who I am.