Indigenous Student Success Story: Alissa Derrick

Indigenous Student Success Story: Alissa Derrick

By: Alissa Derrick | SFU Student and FNSA Member
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My name is Alissa Derrick; I am from the Wet’suwet’en Nation located in Moircetown, British Columbia. I indirectly work for Metro Vancouver East Community Corrections as their Aboriginal Community Liaisons Officer. In addition, I am the Aboriginal Addition Services and Judicial Consultation Project Manager with Native Courtworkers and Counselling Association of BC. I am grateful for these positions, and the experience they have provided.

I will be attending the 2014 convocation at Simon Fraser University; I will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, double minor in Criminology and First Nation Studies. Following graduation, I am applying to the School of Criminology for a Masters. I am proud to acknowledge that I was a transfer student from Langara College. Without this experience, and the students from the Aboriginal Gathering Space, the transition to SFU might have played out different than it did. Preceding SFU and Langara College, I moved to Vancouver at sixteen to play badminton.

Now, that leaves the question, why the small college? To play badminton of course! For two years, I trained with the Langara Falcons and enrolled in the Criminal Justice Program. My passion for badminton combined with education, fuelled the next five years of post-secondary. If someone had told me I would spend 10-plus consecutive semesters in school, I would have ran. If someone had told me a degree took an average of 4 to 5 years, I would have opted for the Criminal Justice Certificate at Langara College. Thankfully, I was too happy playing badminton to notice!

How did Langara prepare me for SFU? The smaller classes boosted my confidence in public speaking and having meaningful conversation among classmates. Throughout semesters, I became aware of students interests, morals, and cultural backgrounds. Without this buffer, public speaking among the larger classes at SFU would have been far more difficult. The largest benefit Langara College offered was the Aboriginal Gathering Space (and an old man name Larry Railton!). The space was small, but efficient in allowing Aboriginal students to create a community. Most students have now transferred to UBC and SFU, but I can speak for all of us. We would kidnap Larry Railton in a heartbeat, if Langara College would just boot him out the door! His passion and genuineness towards students had a significant impact on me. Larry’s support is not limited to a students experience at Langara College. While the Aboriginal students at Langara College are his primary concern, he makes effort to follow-up with transfer students or students who require a break from school.

I did not have the same excitment for SFU as I had for Langara. For two years, the patient ears of roommates, friends, and family members heard the displeasure I had towards SFU. Most of the lack of excitement towards SFU originates from our natural human tendency; we are often creatures of our habit, with routines habitually being automatic. However, this perception eventually altered; I began to accept the challenges of change. Despite change being constant and familar to most people, I am resistant to change. Without surprise, I made adjustments to welcome change. Unfortunately, it took me two years too long, but alas I am enjoying my final year at SFU! Now, this leaves another question. What has the experience of being at SFU taught me?

It has taught me passion, embracing change, and leadership. With personal growth and learning to be flexible, I became passionate enough about (A LOT) of somethings and took leadership roles to make (SOME) changes happen. With the friendships among the FNSA, I contributed to amazing events of pilot projects, cultural events, conferences, speaker series, and fashioned opportunities to engage the Aboriginal SFU and Non-SFU Aboriginal communities. Of particular importance, the FNSA: Aboriginal Criminology required passion, change, and leadership. The FNSA: Aboriginal Criminology Series event begun with three partnerships and a 50 capacity room. This year, the FNSA aligned with 5 community partners, nearly filled a 200 capacity room, had 77 registered online participants, and live-streamed with 2 communities.

Now, it’s all coming to an end at SFU. The long nights, ginger carrot soup, over indulgence of bannock, multiple car tows, parking tickets, hitting the snooze button, APA referencing, and completing 20-page papers the night before they are done. It’s all coming to an end – 6 months from now. Until then, I befriend a black PT Cruiser, which hauls itself up the Burnaby Mountain.

Beyond the Article

Posted on October 09, 2013