Inspiring Success - Life experience leads to University

Life experience taught Meawasige he needed to go to university

Quinn Meawasige 2017 Quinn Meawasige

By Shari Narine
Cando Writer  

Quinn Meawasige comes late to formal education and because of that he knows he wants to be at Algoma University and studying community economic and social development.

But Meawasige would not be able to pursue his career goals if it weren’t for the $2,000 scholarship he received through the National Indigenous Economic Education Foundation for the 2016-2017 school year.

Since he didn’t enroll in post-secondary education right out of high school, his application for funding from his First Nation of Serpent River wasn’t high on the priority list and he didn’t receive any band money. He’s had to cobble together his own sources of revenue to make his education happen and he says the NIEEF scholarship “was a breath of fresh air.”

It’s been a journey and a process, admits Meawasige.

Disenchanted with what he saw as a lack of attention to youth-related issues, Meawasige began attending chief and council meetings to advocate for youth and the value of culture. It was his constant presence in the council chamber that drew the attention of others and soon he was asked to run for council. He did and he was elected at 18 years of age, the youngest council member ever.

“It was a learning experience for me,” said Meawasige, now 23. “I had many a great idea for our community but I just lacked a little bit of skill and knowledge and education on how to actually bring about the change and the stuff I wanted to see in my community.”

He came to understand he needed to pursue his education in order to be able to develop the capacity and knowledge required to spearhead and develop the programs he wanted.

He decided to enroll at Algoma University, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

“It’s one of the only undergrad degrees of its kind in Canada with a specific community, economic and social development focus,” he said.

Half way through the four year program now, Meawasige still sees it as “an amazing fit” for what he wants to do.

“The program talks about essentially developing the community from the ground up instead of the top down and how to build resilience into the community,” he said.

Along with studying, Meawasige serves on the economic development board on Serpent River First Nation, already putting into use what he is learning. The work with the board is heavily focused on providing skills and opportunities to community members to successfully develop and operate their own businesses. He says he sees a difference in what he brings to the board after two years of studies at Algoma University compared to what he was able to accomplish as a council member.

Because Algoma University is accredited with Cando, Meawasige qualifies as a technician level economic developer with Cando. But he’s also pursing Anishinaabe language through the Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig institution which is on the Algoma University site.

When he graduates Meawasige wants to work as an economic development officer with a focus on language and culture.