A graduate standing proudly outside of the school building

Why I wanted to become an Indigenous healthcare provider

Boozhoo! My name is Natalie Skead-Zaporzan, and I am from Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation (Rat Portage). I have lived on the reserve for my whole life and love my community. I am a recent graduate of the Personal Support Worker (PSW) program through Seven Generations Education Institute and will be going into the Registered Nursing Program this September. 

Starting my educational journey

My history with Seven Generations Education Institute goes back to 2005. When I first started, I was a high school dropout and I was tired of seeing all of my friends graduating and starting their lives. I wanted to do that, too, but it seemed like it was out of reach for me. I didn’t believe in myself, and it was my teacher Eric Soderman who changed my outlook on life and helped me see that I could do anything if I worked at it. I had no credits at all, and I had to get 32 done one by one. With his encouragement, I graduated with honors. I was the Valedictorian, had the highest GPA and best attendance. 

SGEI has some of the best teachers, and they go above and beyond for their students. Students need someone to be there to encourage them and believe in them. We go through so many unique challenges, and these teachers try their best to understand, support, and be there for us to succeed. I believe that’s a huge reason that SGEI’s students have such a high success rate.

How the Anishinaabe women in my life inspired me to care for others

When I was six years old, my mother Lynn Skead got sick and lost her eyesight. She has a rare genetic disease. I helped my stepdad Lucien take care of her, and I think this is where my passion for helping people started. My mom never gave up, and she used what she went through to help others. She is a Sweat Lodge carrier and travels all over Canada assisting people. My mom believes in our culture and traditional ways of life and spends a lot of her time educating others about the culture.

My grandmother Madeline Skead was the same way. She worked at The Lake of the Woods District Hospital for more than twenty years as an Aboriginal Liaison worker. She had a passion for helping others, educating people about Anishinaabe culture, and she just really cared about people. These two women played a massive role in inspiring me to work in healthcare.

I choose to take the Personal Support Worker program through SGEI because I have a passion for helping people live the best life that they can. I have always been a caregiver, and the PSW program gave me in-depth training in caring for people with different health concerns. After finishing the PSW program, I was so interested in the health field and wanted to learn more and discover even more ways to help people, so I chose to go into the RPN program with SGEI.

Anishinaabe representation in healthcare

Education is so essential for everyone, but as Anishinaabe people, we are especially needed in the healthcare field. I believe that we need to educate others in our culture, our ways of life and break barriers in front of us. We need more representation everywhere because we have unique circumstances that our own people better understand. 

As native people, we have gone through many things historically that others haven’t.  We are the children and grandchildren of residential school survivors, and we’ve grown up around them and experienced firsthand those lasting generational effects. Those experiences are something that we have in common and something that we can use to help our native patients because we understand it. 

Advice for future students

If I could give anyone advice, it would be to go back to school. It is never too late for you to continue your education. SGEI has support for students, and the staff goes above and beyond to help us succeed. 

I chose SGEI because they have great programs and staff that go the extra mile for you. They want you to succeed, and they help you in any way that they can. Their seven grandfather teachings are fundamental to me, and it is incredible to have a school that recognizes and implements those teachings. When starting college, remember that it may seem like a lot when you are first beginning, but it will get less stressful once you learn to organize your time and assignments. Ensure that you write down what you have to do to see it in front of you physically. I found that it helped me with my anxiety I had about assignments and upcoming tests. Also, remember that you are doing it to have a promising future.

I hope that the people who read my story can see that I have gone through many obstacles and haven’t given up. I hope that they can see a bit of themselves in my story and push to finish school or even make that choice to go to post-secondary. Education opens up so many doors for people and can change your life. It doesn’t matter who you were yesterday or what you did the day before. All that matters is that you get up, make a change, and when the going gets tough “stand up” and don’t ever give up.

Pursue a career in healthcare with SGEI

Are you passionate about a career in health care? SGEI is accepting applications for our healthcare programs. Visit www.7generations.org/post-secondary-programs/ and select Health under Disciplines to learn more about our Paramedic, Personal Support Worker and Practical Nursing programs! We have something for everyone.