Lives Changed Through Lifetime Learning
September 18, 2023
We often hear stories of education providing a brighter future for students and their families. Or about couples who have overcome challenges and adversity to build a stronger relationship and a better life for them and their children. Others about the transformative power of lifetime learning and the important role education can play in delivering that transformation to students of all ages. This is a story that captures all of these themes, told from the Parkland campus at Assiniboine.
Five years ago, Sebastian Keewatin, 35 – his friends call him “Sab” – was a young father without a high school diploma. He worked a series of low-wage, part-time jobs to help support his young family, but kept running in to the same problem.
“I applied at places, and most places said I needed my grade 12,” he says. “And I didn’t have my grade 12. I went to ACC, the mature student program, and acquired my high school diploma in about six months.”
That was a positive step, he says, but “I got that and then tried applying to more places, but they wanted me to work shifts, and that’s what I wanted to get out of. I couldn’t find any work that I wanted, so I decided to keep going…. I pushed myself to enter the business administration program at ACC, and I sparked a flame inside Stevie, and she wanted to go next. So we both applied for schooling.”
Stevie Kay, 34, is Sab’s partner and they share two sons, aged 13 and 7. Stevie had graduated from high school years ago and started university. “I had originally gone for a bachelor of science to do computer science,” she says. “But when I got to university, I ended up falling behind and thinking ‘This isn’t what I want to do at all. I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.’”
Stevie found a job at a financial institution in Dauphin and thought to herself, “I love the finance industry. I love doing this stuff. I love working with figures. This is what I should have gone to school for.”
When Sab applied to the Business Administration program at Assiniboine’s Parkland campus, Stevie realized she also wanted to enroll in the program.
“I’ve always wanted to go back to school as well,” she says. “I was like ‘Well, if I don’t take this opportunity, I’m going to have to wait two years to do this because the program is only offered every two years. And by then, he will be done, and we’ll both be waiting for each other.’”
So, they entered the program together. They’re enjoying it and they’re doing great. “I absolutely loved the financial accounting,” says Stevie. “It was like ‘This is why I am taking this and going for this accounting specialization.’ I excelled in the accounting classes and, for me, I was like ‘I am loving this. I’m understanding it. This is fun.’”
Sab agrees. “I like everything about the program. I like the HR, marketing, financial accounting. I had problems with test taking. It was the financing accounting tests. You get a cheat sheet, but I think the fear of tests gets to you.”
Sab and Stevie are on track to graduate next June, and they have big plans for the future. “We’re both planning to go for an advanced diploma in financial services and/or our masters degrees,” says Stevie. “Because this is something that we’re really passionate about.”
As for their long term plans, Sab says “We’re going to own our own business. As soon as we got into business administration, we said ‘Ten years from now, we’re going to open up our own accounting firm. We’re going to be the first Indigenous-owned firm, and we’re going to help out Indigenous communities all around.’”
Stevie adds that “Being Indigenous, we’ve noticed there’s a stigma with Indigenous people and finances. There’s this very big gap between Indigenous people and understanding finances better. So, that’s where we want to market our services – to help people understand that.”
Stevie has some advice for others who are in situations similar to Sab and Stevie’s, and thinking of going back to school. “Don’t think it’s too late,” she says. “At our age and situation, having a family and all that. Never be afraid, because I was afraid. I sacrificed a lot to go to school but – you know what? – the results of this are going to be way better than if I had never tried, never took on this challenge.”
“We did it, and you can do it too.”