Student Success Story: Kayla Mitchell

Student Success Story: Kayla Mitchell

By: Kayla Mitchell
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Name: Kayla Mitchell

Nation/Affiliation:  Wet’suwet’en

Where did you grow up?  Smithers/Moricetown, B.C.

What were some of the challenges you faced growing up?

My parents broke up when I was very young. They moved to two different towns so it was hard for me to feel connected to my First Nations community, and I often felt excluded due to me being only about half First Nations. In my teen years I rebelled against my parents and was almost kicked out of high school. At that age I felt I was able to do everything on my own.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be a Geneticist, even though I barely knew what the job entailed. I wanted to cure cancer. 

When did you start thinking about attending post-secondary?

It was in my last semester of Grade 12. I didn’t take any pre-requisites to attend SFU, and I tried to take the easy way out of high school. I was starting to wake up, getting my mental and physical health in shape allowed me to reflect on where my life was headed. I decided to change the outcome, and sought post-secondary.

What were some of the reasons you decided to further your education?

I decided to take post-secondary because I knew it would result in a better quality of life for myself and future family. I could see how happy it made my family for me to pursue education. When I looked at the SFU website and seen they offered an Aboriginal Pre-Health program to help aboriginal students gain the pre-requisites to attend SFU I knew it was the right fit.


Write a brief timeline of your schooling experience.

I started my Aboriginal-Pre Health program where I was exposed to the university experience, and even some University-credited courses. Upon completion of my course I moved back to my home community where I found work as a Student Support Worker at a local HIV/AIDS organization. When I returned for school in the fall I was given the opportunity to work with the research team of CHIWOS, who are surveying women-centered HIV medical care, and what that looks like. I’m still working as a research assistant, and finishing up my first year as an undergraduate.

Share your experience of finding funding.

I was able to obtain funding through my band, which was a lengthy process, but I am so ever grateful for it. I also applied for several bursaries and scholarships, and was able to obtain two. It took a lot of time and persistence for me to obtain my funding, but I took initiative and got it done.

Share a time when you wanted to quit.

What I’ve noticed through my Pre-Health program and my first year is that there is a cycle for me. I often want to quit right before the end of the term. This is a time when papers are due and tests are being taken. It’s hard for me to feel motivated to finish, but with the encouragement from friends and family I am able to get over that hurdle and complete it.

Share your proudest moment.

My proudest moment continues to manifest after each completion of a semester. I look back at where my life was going and I see that I chose the right path. The opportunities I have received through schooling are tremendous and I cannot wait for my path to continue to unfold.

Where are you currently in respect to your education? 

I’m in my first year, beginning my second this summer.           

What did you do after you graduated your first degree?

I’ll let you know when I get there!

What has been your most important lesson returning to school?

I learned that I’m capable of a lot of things, even when I am very self-defeating.

What advice do you have to offer other Indigenous students?  

Just do it! If you get invested in your education you want to continue, and the rewards are extraordinary! Even when it is hard, you continue to do it. I’ve learned so much since starting, it’s phenomenal.

What are your goals for the future?

I want to complete my Undergraduate degree in Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. After that I hope to continue with school to obtain a Masters degree in Public Health. I’m not too sure if that’s what will happen, but that’s where I’m headed! 

Posted on August 18, 2015