Student Spotlight: Alexis Josephine Cinq-Mars

Student Spotlight: Alexis Josephine Cinq-Mars

My name is Alexis Josephine Cinq-Mars. I’m Métis and a mother of four. I’m originally from Selkirk, Manitoba and I graduated from high school in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. I recently graduated from the Social Service Worker program at Assiniboine and was the 2022-23 valedictorian at this year’s graduation ceremony in Brandon. I worked as a peer mentor out of Assiniboine’s Cultural Centre and was part of the Student Council. I’m going to be continuing my education at Brandon University this fall to pursue Gender & Women’s Studies.

Growing up I was a Youth In Care, so I really wanted to get involved and give back to that community after being part of it. I’ve been going to different events and ceremonies with our elders and really trying to stay involved as much as possible within our community. That’s one of the reasons why I chose the Social Service Worker program. I don’t really have a plan for exactly what I want to do with my education just yet but I’ve been exploring a lot of the different paths I could take. In my first year I was thinking about a career as a social worker and then in my second year of the program I started to look into counseling as a career. But the more I thought about these paths the more I couldn’t see myself in these roles. I took more of an interest in policy and advocacy through my involvement in the student council and became pretty good at making changes for the better. That’s why I’m going to continue my education and learn more about women and gender studies. I don’t know exactly what my future career will be just yet but I think my current education and these new studies will pair nicely and will allow me to continue down the path of awareness and advocacy for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and connecting with our youth.

I was a teen mom. There were a lot of obstacles to overcome for me to get to this point in my life. Five years ago, I would have said there is no way that I would have graduated as the valedictorian or been part of the Student Council. My kids pushed me in a positive direction and I was able to make changes in my life to get here. It was a journey with many challenges. Once my kids got older, I knew it was time to get back into the workforce. I reached out to some resources here in Brandon and discovered that there were some really great programs like the Tuition Waiver program set up to help assist former Youth In Care with getting an education and ready for the workforce. Without that assistance I wouldn’t have been able to pursue an education. I was able to get the financial support needed to help with tuition and daycare for my children. I remember sitting in their office crying because I was so happy– it changed my whole world. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without that.

I’m part of the peer mentorship program offered through Assiniboine’s Cultural Centre. The peer mentorship program usually involves a second-year student or alumni who offers support to current Indigenous students, giving them someone to talk to about their studies or helping to get them involved in events and activities during their time at the college. Sometimes students just want to unload and have someone to talk to, and the peer mentors are people that have that understanding and have gone through many of the experiences themselves.

I was on Assiniboine’s Student Council for both of my years at the college. The first year I was the Health and Human Services rep and the second year I was the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion. Creating the second position was something that we actually worked on and developed during my first year on council and I was the first person to take that role. My time on Student Council really shaped my whole college experience and really gave me so much more than what I came to the college for rather than just my education. All of the extra-curricular activities and experiences went beyond what I ever expected. I’m so glad I got to be part of it and it’s helped me become just so much more confident in myself and helped me grow.

Assiniboine appealed to me because, as an adult learner, I felt more comfortable in this type of setting—smaller class sizes allowed for more one-on-one learning with my instructors. A lot of the education we receive at Assiniboine is more practical and really well rounded, and it opens the door to a lot of different career paths to pursue. My time here has given me a great foundation and if I decided to jump straight into the workforce, I know I could find a great career with my education.

My instructors were awesome. They all have so much knowledge and experience in their fields. Being able to share real stories from their time in the workforce really adds to their lessons. This I think is even more important in the Social Service Worker program because it deals so much with people and interactions. It’s just really beneficial and gives us a better understanding of real-world scenarios.

I’ve had so many great memories at Assiniboine from my involvement with the Cultural Centre and through the Students’ Association—memories that will stay with me for my lifetime. One of my favorites was when we created the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women display at the college. It was really special to be able to do something in the middle of the pandemic and to use our voices and bring awareness to the issues going on.

I’m just proud of myself for just showing up every day, and pushing myself during my time at Assiniboine. I think that was a theme, just keep going and thriving. I felt like people cared about what I had to say, which is a lot more than I can say about other places I have been. My peers wanted to hear what I had to say and I’m going to keep going and letting my voice be heard. I feel good and I’m proud of myself. Being the valedictorian was an honour and privilege. I’ve never spoken publicly to a crowd of that size, so that was very nerve wracking, but it was such an awesome experience. I had another graduate come up to me after and tell me that they felt so represented after hearing me talk, wearing the eagle feathers as part of my regalia on my grad cap and having the ceremonial drummers in the background. It was such a surreal experience and I still can’t believe I did that.