Sacha DeWolfe – Masters of Education

University of New Brunswick

The most valuable lesson that I have learned through obtaining higher education is that knowledge creates opportunity along with self respect …

My name is Sacha DeWolfe and I am a member of Eel Ground First Nation. Eel Ground like many communities has its challenges in relation to drug/alcohol abuse as well as other health issues directly related to aboriginal people. It is my opinion that these issues can be addressed with strong leadership which may be obtained through higher education. I believe in a democratic society but there must be leadership combined with communication among the people as a foundation. In Eel Ground we have an aging baby boomer population which soon will be relying on the younger generation to lead the community. The most valuable lesson that I have learned through obtaining higher education is that knowledge creates opportunity along with self respect and pride in ones accomplishments. As a minority it is imperative that we take every opportunity available in order to sustain not only culture but a sense of belonging. With the aid of district council, support of my community and dedication I graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2005, Bachelor of Education degree in 2010, and a Masters of Education degree in 2012. I decided to take the thesis route in the Masters program which consists of course work combined with a research thesis. I will have a published research book titled: Schooling behind bars: An analysis of the Therapeutic Community Model and how it shapes education for incarcerated youth.

I have always been involved in sports. At university I was a member of the University of New Brunswick Women’s volleyball team. This provided an outlet where I could de-stress and re-energize. During the five years that I played volleyball at UNB I received many awards. I was named Most Valuable Player of the team three years in a row. I was honored as athlete of the week many times for the university and was nominated for Athlete of the Year as well as named an Atlantic Conference All-Star. This type of commitment consists of travelling every weekend for seven months of the school year and is quite challenging when combined with a university work load. I continue to play volleyball at the senior “A “level and believe that staying active and involved decreases the likelihood of partaking in unhealthy life choices. I recommend any athlete to play at an elite level as it was a life altering experience for me.

When an individual graduates from high school there are many options available one being the decision to stay home and not attend university or college. Consequences follow this decision such as a reduction in employment opportunities and a decrease in salary. The opportunity to broaden your perspective on many aspects of life decreases as well. The chance to learn about other cultures, history, develop writing skills, communication skills, presentation skills, computer skills, learn about environmental issues, law, kinesiology, nursing, forestry, etc. By not continuing education you are seriously limiting yourself and perhaps your children’s lives. With the amount of options available for study it is almost impossible to find a field that interests you.

During my eight years at UNB I volunteered within the community of Fredericton (Pinegrove nursing home/Junior Reds program at UNB) as well as coached the summer sport camps at UNB. I was also a volunteer referee for local middle and high school volleyball tournaments. The UNB sport camps provided the first real experience I had instructing youth and I did this for three consecutive summers. After the sport camps I decided to enter the Bachelor of Education program. It was through my interest in community and being involved that I realized what I wanted to study.

Another factor that influenced my area of study was a short term employment at the New Brunswick Youth Centre. The realization that many aboriginal youth populated these facilities made me question what was being done at the public education level to keep these youth in school. Almost all youth in the facility had been failed one way or another by the public education system. Some kids in the youth prison did not have parents that were equipped to support them or did not have parents at all. Who do these children turn to? I was deeply affected by what I saw at the youth prison.

There is a need for successful programs to be implemented that support First Nation’s people and not simply directives by government through policy which sustain further subjectification of aboriginal youth. The idea of post secondary allowance being as low as it is provides a prime example of a government program in place which appears to provide “free education” but in actuality one can barely survive on the monthly allowance provided. It is reasons such as this that need to be motivators for aboriginal youth to make change, to address discriminatory and inept policy and to succeed in higher education. In order to see change we must change and in order to be heard we must earn that privilege. Being committed to yourself, your education and your overall wellness is the main goal, it is not to obtain the degree to say that you did it, it is to use this knowledge to provide a better life for yourself and others.

I am passionate about diversity and incorporating multiculturalism awareness into the school curriculum not just as a guideline but as a mandate. Statistics Canada states that by 2050 we will be the first country in the history of the world to be overcome by immigrants. By the year 2017 one out of every three students in the classroom will be of a different race. These numbers are staggering. Immigrant children have high drop-out rates, high absenteeism, face discrimination and suffer low academic standing. If we do not address this issue immediately our country will suffer grave consequences. Imagine 2/3 of our population in Canada with no education. Through the critical studies program at UNB I will better equip myself to be influential in education of minorities. With these alarming rates of immigration it is obvious that the issues surrounding First Nations people will only get worse.

Higher education, staying involved with the community and being committed to a better life are factors which have influenced where I am today, what I have accomplished and what I will accomplish. I cannot express enough how important it is to provide First Nation youth with the support needed to obtain higher education. No matter what situation life has placed you in it is within your power to change.