Mature student wins scholarship during up-and-down year of return to school

By Sam Laskaris
Cando Writer

Pamela BohpaPamela Bohpa has certainly had her share of challenges in her first year back into the education system.

But there has also been one pleasant surprise as well.

Bohpa, a 42-year-old member of Dakota Plains First Nation in Manitoba, is in her first year of studies at Red River College Polytech.

Bohpa, who is also a mother of six, is working towards a two-year business administration diploma from the college.

Bohpa explained that her decision to return to the classroom popped into her mind when her family’s dynamics started to change.

“I wanted my husband to be home more,” Bohpa said. “He’s a long-haul driver and I got sick of being home alone a fair bit.”

When Bohpa’s husband lost his job last April, a plan was formed for her to return to school while he stayed home to help raise their children.

Besides having to rush to apply for college last year, Bohpa had another priority last summer – planning her wedding, which was held in July of 2022.

A few short months later, Bohpa found herself in the classroom taking her college courses. Her first year of studies were interrupted fairly early on when COVID hit various family members including herself.

A nasty stomach bug also forced her to miss classes in her first year. Bohpa has also had to deal with some challenging math and accounting courses.

On the plus side, however, Bohpa recently found out that she would be receiving a $5,000 scholarship.

She discovered that she is one of eight winners across Canada this year for the Indigenous Scholarship Program.

The national program is delivered by Indspire. And it is also 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.

As in previous years, a total of $44,000 was available in funding this year via the Indigenous Scholarship Program.

Bohpa’s share of the funding was her aforementioned $5,000. Three other students also received $5,000 each.

Meanwhile, two individuals were awarded the maximum of $10,000 each. And a pair of others received $2,000 each.

Bohpa was obviously thrilled she received word that she was a scholarship winner, especially since she’s had her share of obstacles in her academic year.

“It has been really hard,” she said. “My favourite part was recently being involved in the project management parts.”

Bohpa admits segments of her course she is not overly fond of. “Not so much the math parts,” she said of course segments she does not like.

Though she still has another year to complete before obtaining her diploma, Bohpa said she is hoping to find work rather quickly upon graduating.

“My reserve wants me to work for them,” she said, adding officials from a school in her First Nation have also expressed an interest in adding her to the staff once she has completed her college studies.