Animal park helps medal winner study

May 29, 2003, vol. 27, no. 3
By Roberta Staley

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If it wasn't for the animal park in Kamloops, dean's convocation medal winner Carmella Rose Mathieu (left) doesn't know how she would have managed her studies.

“I got a family membership to the local wildlife park and would sit at a picnic table and do homework,” says Mathieu, single mom to Jordan, nine, and seven-year-old Danny.

“The kids would play and look at the animals. It was my saving grace,” says Mathieu, who graduated from SFU's Secwepeme education institute in Kamloops with a cumulative 3.64 GPA, majoring in anthropology with a minor in First Nations studies. Mathieu has also completed her professional development program (PDP) with SFU's faculty of education.

Associate professor of anthropology and First Nations studies Marianne Ignace lauded Mathieu's high academic achievement while rearing two children, as well as excelling at two time-consuming PDP practicums. Mathieu, says Ignace, was “an inspiration and role model for others.”

Having two children meant Mathieu often burned the midnight oil. She would make sure Jordan and Danny were in bed by 7:30 p.m. so she could focus on course work, to ensure she could devote time to the youngsters on weekends. “Family always came first,” says Mathieu, recalling the encouragement she was given by her own parents and siblings.

Mathieu credits the small size of the Secwepeme campus and supportive professors for helping her meet the dual challenge of academics and motherhood. “If the children were sick and couldn't go to daycare, I would bring them to school,” she says. Mathieu's studies also provided her with the chance to work in the archaeology laboratory and learn about local aboriginal artifacts.

From her hometown in Merritt, where she attended secondary school, Mathieu awaits word whether she's been accepted as a teacher at an elementary school in England. She plans to work for several years at least, then return to Canada to do a masters program. “Travelling is one of the greatest educational experiences you can have,” she says.

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