People of Georgian: Métis student feels ‘immense’ responsibility as first in family to attend college
June 04, 2021

June is National Indigenous History Month. As part of our celebration, we’re featuring the perspectives of Georgian students and employees of Indigenous ancestry all month long.

What’s your story?

The Georgian community is full of unique, inspiring perspectives —and we’re sharing them as part of an ongoing series.

People of Georgian: Meet Ryan Gladwin

I’m actually the only person in my family – my grandparents included – to go to university or college.

I think it ties back to being Indigenous. I grew up in a family that was afraid of postsecondary schooling.

My grandfather was a residential school survivor. We never really quite knew what his trauma was, but my mom grew up understanding that postsecondary education was not a good thing.

Three people stand together and smile at the camera in a selfie.

But I remember there was a point in my life when I started to realize postsecondary might be the right path for me.

I had to overcome my parents’ desire for me to just work and just find a full-time job and just do that. I tried that path. And it just wasn’t for me.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘I can do that, too. I’m smart enough. I’m good enough’”

A very pivotal moment for me was my high school graduation. I was working that day, so I didn’t go. And I was working in a hair salon. I was very thankful. I was able to have some amazing opportunities in that realm.

But my peers were getting ready to accept their offers from university. I remember thinking to myself, “I can do that, too. I’m smart enough. I’m good enough.” I just knew at that point that’s what my path was supposed to be.

As I talk about it and look back, I realize I was very lucky. For a long time, especially as a mature student, I felt I had wasted so much of my life.

It wasn’t until last semester when I was in hospital as a nursing student in practical that I had this moment that I realized that everything I’ve done – the things that I didn’t think were meant to be my future – have all contributed to me being who I am in this moment right here.

I think if I didn’t go to hair school, didn’t work, and didn’t struggle, I wouldn’t appreciate the opportunity I have to be in school to be improving my education.

A headshot of a person wearing scrubs smiling at the camera.

‘Every time I connect with other Métis or Indigenous students, my path becomes clearer’

As an Indigenous student, I feel an immense amount of responsibility to my community, to pursue jobs that are service oriented that will help other people. Our community is in such need of that.

I’m Métis. My family comes from Drummond Island. I find a lot of Métis people don’t want to talk about their heritage; they were ashamed of it.

I find a lot of Métis people live in this in-between where they don’t really fit in a First Nation, and they don’t fit in with, you know, colonialism.

My mother always had questions about who she was and who her family members were, and she spent many, many years trying to trace lineages.

Two people smile at the camera while standing at a tree-lined lakeshore.

Now, thanks to her efforts and historical documents, we can trace our family back to the 1600s.

I saw how important it was to her and, in a sense, it became important to me and to my family and my community, to understand that I was a young Indigenous individual.

Every time I connect with other Métis or Indigenous students, my path becomes clearer.

Ryan Gladwin, student in Georgian’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) collaborative program.

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