Message of scholarship win was perfect timing for Cree student

By Sam Laskaris
Cando Writer

Amy SwanA message in late February could not have come at a better time for Amy Swan.

Swan, a member of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation located in northern Saskatchewan, received an email that she would receive $5,000 for being one of this year’s recipients of the Indigenous Scholarship Program.

Just how important was that notification informing Swan that she was a scholarship winner?

“It meant everything to me,” said Swan, who was expected to graduate in April with a diploma from her business management program from Saskatchewan Polytechnic. “I was literally down to my last $8 when I got the email.”

So yes, pretty much perfect timing to be told some much needed cash was heading her way.

Swan was one of eight recipients this year of the Indigenous Scholarship Program, which is annually delivered by Indspire.

The program is a partnership between CIBC and the National Indigenous Economic Education Foundation (NIEEF), which is Cando’s charitable organization, which provides scholarships, training and research funding to students involved in Indigenous community economic development.

A total of $44,000 in scholarship funding was available this year through the program. Two individuals received the maximum of $10,000 in funding.

Swan was one of four recipients who were awarded $5,000 each. A pair of $2,000 recipients were also recognized.

Swan, who is 37 and has a 12-year-old son, said she utilized parts of her scholarship money to help pay off some of her bills, including car payments, car insurance and her cell phone.

Swan’s final day in her business management program was scheduled for Apr. 20. She was feverishly pursuing opportunities in the weeks beforehand.

“I hope to find full-time employment right away,” she said in a phone interview in late March. “I’m actively searching for jobs right now.”

Swan had experience in both mining and construction industries before deciding that she could potentially better herself with a return to the education system.

Back in 2009 she had completed a one-year radiation monitoring and environmental technician

certificate program from Northland College in Saskatchewan.

She did work in the mining sector for several years afterwards. And then she held down various construction jobs for a number of years.

But she was looking for something better.

“I came back (to school) so I could take the management program so I could be a manager,” Swan said.

She has a vision of the type of company she would like to work for.

“I would like to get in with a company that is majority Indigenous owned,” she said.

Swan added she is not simply hoping to further her own career. She said another reason she decided to pursue additional education was because she would also like to be viewed as a role model, especially for young Indigenous females.

“I’m doing it because I want all the little girls from First Nation communities to see me and say if she can do it I can do it too,” Swan added.