Student Success Story: Sheryl Thompson

Student Success Story: Sheryl Thompson

By: Sheryl Thompson
  17424 reads

Name: Sheryl Thompson

Nation or affiliation:  Metis and Cree

Where did you grow up?  East Vancouver

What were some of the challenges you faced growing up? 
Racism was different, it was very open and we (my sisters and I) were the only Aboriginal kids in our elementary school. There was no Aboriginal history taught in schools except for a few weeks of Haida art which was presented as all Canadian Aboriginal heritage.  I grew up very disconnected from my culture and Aboriginal community but I was fortunate enough to have my cousins, aunts and uncles nearby. 

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
I knew, early on that I wanted to be a wife and mother and I secretly wanted to go to university but I had no idea how to go about it. I had no one to ask or to advise me, my parents had no money and I had no access to band funding.
I became a wife and mother ... and I love those roles, and now, I'm working on my secret (and patient) dream.

When did you start thinking about attending post-secondary? 
I thought about it when I graduated but it wasn't in my cards. Fast forward half a lifetime ...
I began seriously thinking about it when my daughter began applying to schools 3 years ago. I was forced to learn how the process worked so I could help her through it. I found SFU's Aboriginal Bridging Program and I enrolled last year (2013-14).The professors and staff of the Bridge Program helped me dust-off my study skills, taught me some new ones and shored up my confidence. The most valuable gift the program gave me is a network of support that continues to expand and guide me through the process. 

What were some of the reasons you decided to further your education? 
In part, my kids are getting older and I will eventually need to have something to do with myself and I have an interest in Aboriginal Policy, particularly in regards to children, families and health.

Share your experience of finding funding. 
I have no access to band funding so I apply for scholarships, work study, etc.
I was awarded the Aboriginal entrance scholarship and I received an award from Indspire.  My advice is to apply for everything, because you never know.

Share a time when you wanted to quit. 
When my youngest looks at me and asks if she'll see me tomorrow... does it to me every time.  Near the end of the semester, when I feel the pressure of papers and finals and family and work. It all gets a bit much sometimes but I've lived long enough to know that it's fleeting and it will pass as long as I keep moving forward.

Share your proudest moment. 
I am proud that I had a hand in raising such amazing kids and most of my moments come from the success of my children. (graduating school, having careers they like, being happy, going to university).
I am very proud that after half a lifetime of being a wife (27 years and counting) and mother, that I found the courage to allow a very old dream to resurface and follow this incredible path it has put me on.

Where are you currently in respect to your education? 
I am in my second year of my BA

What has been your most important lesson returning to school? 
It's never too late and I can do this.

What advice do you have to offer other Indigenous students? 
It's never too late and you can do this.
AND build a network, seriously ... make the connections. There is a community here of really smart, experienced, caring people who would be happy to lend a hand, give you advice, or just hand you a Kleenex.
You are not alone and someone has walked this path before ... follow their lead or at least, ask for directions.

What are your goals for the future? 
My goals are to finish my BA in Health Science and then go on for my MPH.
My big picture goal is to work in policy to strengthen the health and well being of Aboriginal Peoples by working to combine Aboriginal children, families, communities and health into a single concept that is so interconnected that they can not be teased apart to be treated as independent entities.

Posted on June 17, 2015