Native Graduation Success Story: Tina Matthew

Weytk! My name is Tina Matthew and I am from the North Thompson Indian Band, Shuswap Nation.

My parents live in Chu-Chua and I have two sisters, one older and one younger. I am 30 years old and a recent graduate of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC.

I graduated with: Bachelor of General Studies with a double minor in First Nations Studies and Anthropology Liberal Arts Certificate Teaching Certification for the Elementary Level (PDP) (Professional Development Program).

It took me a while to return to college and university because I worked a lot of minimum wage jobs and traveled around. But then I realized that most of these jobs were dead-end jobs, with no room for advancement or fulfillment.

I realized that in order to fulfill and accomplish my dreams I needed to go back to school and obtain my degree. My parents and my community have always emphasized the importance of education, and my older sister was very influential in my returning to school.

I think I really “found” myself in university. I met other First Nations people who were just as scared and unsure of their goals as I was, but we were all willing to give it our best shot. But most importantly, I met other strong, educated First Nations women who would become my mentors and friends through all of the trials and tribulations of university.

I had a really hard time with some courses, but I persevered and hung in there, thanks to the support of the people around me. So many times I felt like throwing in the towel because it seemed like there was no end in sight, but my friends and family believed in me and helped me through it.

The most gratifying and rewarding day culminated for me on June 6th, 2002 when I had my convocation at Simon Fraser University. It symbolized for me the success of all of my hard work over the last 6 years and made me realize that all of the time and effort I had put in had finally paid off!

I truly feel that my job opportunities have increased tenfold because of the education that I have attained, and I don’t regret all of the hard work one bit. I think the most important thing that is has given me is the ability to think critically about issues and have the confidence and knowledge to stand behind my beliefs.

It’s funny, when I was in school I didn’t realize why we were studying the things we were and how it was relevant to the big picture, but now that I look back at everything in retrospect it all makes sense. You have to go though a lot of small tedious details and information, but in the end it all connects and forms a comprehensive, cohesive whole.

I am working at the First Nations Employment Centre right now doing the Youth Programming and I love it. I plan to move to the Okanagan in the future and teach there.

Thank you for hearing my story. Kukstemc.

Tina Matthew