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A Journey of Passion, Purpose, and Personal Growth: Reflecting on My Path

Blog | September 26, 2023 | Share on:

I am Elliott, Ojibway on my father’s side and Mohawk on my mother’s. Looking back on my life's journey, I can't help but marvel at the twists and turns that have brought me to where I am today. As we approach the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, I find myself reflecting on the significant events that have shaped my life and led me down a path of empowerment and positive change. This is a snapshot of my story as a testament to the power of resilience, self-discovery, and the pursuit of meaningful goals.

Elliott and his family


Growing up, I longed for a sense of identity, but it was often overshadowed by the world in which we live. While my dad imparted invaluable teachings and wisdom, I found myself seeking deeper connections (I was around 10 years old). My early years were marked by constant movement due to my mother's pursuit of a professional law degree and, though this lifestyle was challenging, it taught me adaptability and resilience. At the same time, it also left me feeling like an outsider in my home First Nations community when we returned after my mother had completed her education. Building friendships and maintaining a sense of belonging was also a struggle because I attended a French immersion school outside of the community. As a result, I was never involved in the events of my home community, so I developed little association with my peers. When you do not attend the school that everyone else attends, kids your age tend to treat you differently. Really, I just wanted to make friends so I continued to live as a teen would live. I played football, got into trouble from time to time (haha), and ultimately graduated high school.

The path ahead presented excitement but was also daunting. University was a new chapter in my life, and the obstacles ahead would seem substantial. Striking a balance between the academic demands and the distinct pressures faced by First Nations students proved to be no small task.

The weight of academic expectations was intensified by the responsibility that came with being a First Nations student. The financial support received came hand in hand with a demanding obligation to maintain grades that were above average. Failing to meet these standards could trigger academic probation, jeopardizing the funding that is crucial for many students. The significance of staying in good academic standing was paramount, as it could potentially determine whether a student would have the chance to pursue higher education again, given the constraints of their circumstances.

My personal circumstances were marked by good fortune—I came from a community where education funding was comparatively widespread. However, the true privilege of attending university or college was something that often escaped the perception of young minds like mine. The realization of this privilege and the contrasting limitations faced by other First Nations youth across Canada came as a later revelation.

University life wasn't as smooth as I had hoped; low grades and a lack of support led me to withdraw after five years without completing my degree. This setback left me feeling like a failure and doubting my potential for success.

Elliott shocked face


Elliott with family at Fanshawe graduation.


After that, I spent time working in an animal hospital, a seemingly mundane job that turned out to be transformative. Through hard work and dedication, I realized my own capacity for growth and achievement. This prompted me to re-enroll in college, a decision that proved to be pivotal. Five years later, I graduated with an Applied Degree in Biotechnology and as the founding member of the Fanshawe College Let’s Talk Science site that still exists today, distinctions that stand as a couple of my proudest achievements outside of later attaining my master’s and starting a family of my own.

My journey led me to a path I initially hadn't anticipated but wholly embraced—STEM education and Indigenous outreach. Engaging with Indigenous at-risk youth through Let’s Talk Science allowed me to combine my passion for STEM with a commitment to my heritage. In inspiring others, I found myself delving deeper into my own Indigenous identity, forging those connections I sought earlier in life.

And now, here I stand on the cusp of a new chapter with a Master's of Environment and Business in hand. The decision to attain this degree wasn't without its challenges. Memories of academic advisors who doubted my potential were always prevalent as I pursued my early academics. Essentially, the decision to pursue my master’s was born out of a desire to prove to myself that I could do it.

My master’s journey aligns seamlessly with my passion for sustainable development at Let’s Talk Science and my commitment to Indigenous peoples. As the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation draws near, I'm reminded of the transformative power of personal growth. Through my work, I hope to create a brighter, more sustainable future for Indigenous communities while inspiring the next generation of young minds.