"Without Mikisew I don't think I'll be where I am today. They helped a lot—not just financially—but by giving me a reconnection to who I am."
Michael Bourke started studying graphic design at the Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario in 2006. He transferred into the Social Service Worker - Native Specialization program in 2007, graduating two years later and moved on to a Social Work Degree at the Laurentian University. This year he graduated with honours, and while starting a new family plans to move into his Masters degree. Mikisew Cree First Nation has been funding Michael since 2006. Michael talked about his experience with Mikisew Post Secondary,
"I found Mikisew to be very helpful in situations where I needed funding. They were there all the way and it was a very positive experience. If I had any questions I was able to openly talk to Marlene Simpson, and there were lots of correspondences over email. We had a good rapport, we have a very good relationship. If there were any issues where I needed extra assistance she was there to help in any way she was able, wether it was financial or just about my situations in school."
Throughout his career as a student Michael also refers to his memories and experinces to help him face the challenges of student life. During our interview Michael described his memories of Fort Chipewyan,
"Being affiliated with Mikisew helped me figure out where I am coming from. Not only that, it gave me a chance to see who I really was—my culture, my background. I remember the rocky roads, a few houses here and there, on a boat with my grandfather in the summer times, I definitely remember the winter road. Learning my identity and where I'm from has helped me become a much more balanced person."
Michael plans to pursue his Masters either in Toronto or Waterloo. In 2007 he was only looking at a two year program followed by employment in social work, but closer to the end of his program he realized what is possible with education:
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"After coming out of it, I realized that I need a lot more education. I need a lot more to understand the issues that face Aboriginal and First Nations people. To get a better understanding, university is the best path. Not only that, it gives me a better insight into my culture and who I am. I want to continue my education to find something to help my people overcome the barriers. Knowledge is power, and the one you can make a difference out there is if you get the education and use it."