Sophia Elliot - National Youth Panel Nominee

Shari Narine
Cando Contributor

Sophia Elliott attributes her success to strong community, family and cultural values.

“During trying times in my life I made positive changes by finding strength from these three groups as well as within myself,” she said.

The 22-year-old from the Cowichan Tribes First Nations will be graduating from Vancouver Island University in the fall of 2019 with her Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous Studies. She then wants to apply for the Master’s in Community Planning program.

“I want to make a positive contribution as a community development officer or coordinator of sorts within my community,” said Elliott of her future career plans. She has already begun doing that volunteering in the VIU community in the Cousins Mentorship program, making herself available for incoming students and events held on campus.

“A prominent theme within my life in recent years has been self-determination at an individual level as well as a collective level. My experience demonstrates the positive outcomes that derive from the inclusion of traditional culture and language into a western academic setting,” she said.

Elliott’s strength in her culture is one reason why Natasha Brooks, student director with Cando, nominated Elliott to be a member of Cando’s National Youth Panel.

“Sophia has given me the gift of becoming more connected to my culture, something that has been hard for me to do. She has invited me to community gatherings, events, and to take part in canoe pulling. She has a natural ability to make people feel welcome and bring people together,” wrote Brooks.

Elliott says it was “an exciting feeling” to get the nomination. She believes she can contribute to the panel by sharing her experience of the path that her education has taken which intertwines cultural and community values with other Indigenous methodologies and ideologies.

Elliott says she wants youth to understand that they can persevere – as history has shown – and that they can maintain their language and culture, which keeps them grounded.

“I also hope to emphasize the importance of pursuing higher education not only to create a better future for themselves, but also to impact the people around them in a positive way,” she said. But in so doing, she adds, heritage must not be forgotten. “Our language and our culture connect us to our people and the land. Where we come from is part of who we are and embracing our roots gives us the strength we need to move forward together.”