Inspiring Success: NIEEF CIBC - Janice Chowace

Chowace to become first family member to earn university degree 

By Sam Laskaris
Cando Contributor

Janice ChowaceJanine Chowace is well on her way to a major accomplishment.

Chowace, a 31-year-old member of Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, is more than halfway done the requirements necessary to earn her university degree.

Chowace is in her third year of studies of the four-year business management program at the

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

“It’s a pretty big deal,” Chowace said. “I’ll be the first one in my family to get a university degree.”

Chowace’s mother had seven children.

What is also a big deal is the fact Chowace is one of eight recipients of this year’s Indigenous Scholarship Program.

The program is delivered through Indspire, the national organization that raises funds and provides programming for Indigenous people across Canada.

A total of $44,000 was available through the scholarship program this year. Funds were provided through a partnership between the CIBC and Cando’s charitable organization, the National Indigenous Economic Education Fund.

Chowace’s scholarship was worth $5,000.

“It’s a big relief for sure,” she said. “I feel pretty thankful.”

Chowace wasn’t quite sure how exactly her scholarship money would be spent but it would in all likelihood help pay off some of her debts.

Chowace added being awarded a sizable amount of money to help continue her education proved to her she is on the right path.

“It is really comforting,” she said. “I work really hard. And this shows me this hard work has paid off.”

Chowace had dropped out of high school while she was 16 and in Grade 10.

“That was a goal to go back and finish high school,” she said.

Before she did decide to return to school, Chowace worked at various jobs, including providing childcare, doing manual labour and being employed in the food industry.

After earning her high school equivalency diploma, Chowace enrolled in NAIT’s business administration program.

Chowace, who lives in the municipality of Sputinow, did not have to move to Edmonton to attend NAIT. That’s because thanks to a collaboration her program is also offered through Portage College in Cold Lake, about an hour’s drive from her home.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Chowace is now taking her classes remotely.

She admitted she does like the fact she doesn’t have to drive to school every day now.

“I think being at home presents different challenges though,” she said. “The (school) environment is missing. And it’s a lot more distracting being at home with the family.”

Chowace, a single parent, has an 11-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Both of them are also taking virtual classes now at home.

Though she has about a year and a half remaining before she completes her degree, Chowace is not sure how she will put her education to use.

“I haven’t really figured that out yet,” she said. “Business management is a broad thing. I’m not sure yet what I want to do.”