Former hairstylist now aspiring for business career wins scholarship

By Sam Laskaris
Cando Writer

Justice HeidsmaJustice Heidsma has received some reassurance that giving up her previous career to return to school was a step in the right direction for her.

Heidsma, a member of Witset First Nation in British Columbia, had worked for six years as a hairdresser upon graduating from her Vancouver high school.

But Heidsma realized that her first career was not something she wanted to work at forever.

“With hairstyling you’re like standing on your feet for 10 hours a day,” she said. “It was ruining my body and I figured I wanted to do something else.”

That something else was return to school. So that’s exactly what Heidsma did in 2018 when she enrolled in Vancouver’s Langara College.

The pandemic put Heidsma’s education on hold for a bit. Thus, she is still in the college’s two-year associate of arts business and commerce program.

Heidsma, who is 28, has already made a commitment to continue on for two more years of studies at the school in order to obtain a degree.

Heidsma got a huge confidence boost recently as it was announced she is one of eight recipients this year of the Indigenous Scholarship Program.

The national program, delivered by Indspire, offered a total of $44,000 in funding. Heidsma was one of two $2,000 recipients.

“The scholarship means more than money to me,” Heidsma said. “It helps me to put all of my energy and focus on my studies.”

Plus, it was a bonus that she was able to cover some of her living expenses via the scholarship.

“It does help out a lot,” she said. “I was able to pay some of my bills with it.”

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

Heidsma would have preferred to be further along in her post-secondary studies right now. But the pandemic hindered that.

“Online courses were not working out for me,” she said. “I took online classes for two semesters but it wasn’t for me.”

Even prior the pandemic Heidsma had to take a break from her schooling as she was involved in a car accident which left her with a bad concussion and the inability to concentrate on her classes.

Heidsma also took some time off from her schooling because of her dislike of online learning. She returned to in-person classes at Langara in September of 2022. She much prefers being in an actual classroom as opposed to remote learning.

“It’s just different being able to communicate with your teachers and peers,” she said. “I can’t focus as well online.”

Heidsma felt online classes were even more difficult because some of her teachers for business courses still insisted on having group projects completed. That group work often included four to five individuals.

Heidsma added that was often a chore in itself trying to remotely accommodate schedules with others during the pandemic.