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Experience without Compromise
A personal narrative by student
Remember that television show Cheers from the eighties, the one with the catchy theme song about a familiar place where everybody knows your name? This is the song that comes to mind when reflecting on the past year at First Nations House (FNH).
I began my academic career like many others do -- going to class, grabbing a tea at the nearest Timmy's, and if I had to do some research I would visit Robarts. Then the hour long TTC ride home would follow, where I'd read, write and study. I call this the 'static student life.'
Then I went to FNH, mainly out of curiosity. I even signed up onto the listserv and was e-mailed invites to events and activities but never really attended. Then one afternoon I ran into my friend and former co-worker, Tyler Pennock. I told him that I was looking for a part-time job and he encouraged me to apply for a work-study position.
The FNH work-study program offers students the opportunity to work while maintaining their academic careers, as well as the chance to gain skills and experience in a variety of areas. The primary goal is to offer the student a chance to work without compromising their studies. "We all understand that education does come first," Recruitment Officer Tracy Jacko said.
This was definitely how I felt when I was given this opportunity. I joined in the role of Program Assistant under Rochelle Allan, someone who supported me throughout the year and whom I can now call a friend. A large part of the work I did as the Program Assistant was event planning for Aboriginal Awareness Week, which is also something many of the work-study students had a hand in.
University life can sometimes be overwhelming and like I said, static, but FNH Director Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo, along with the rest of the staff, created an atmosphere that helped ease the chaos of the outer world. I vividly recall Jackie, the Resource Centre Coordinator, being very adamant about how important our studies were. This is very apparent in, what I would call the most flexible work schedule I had ever encountered. If we had a paper due or a test to study for, the staff would make accommodations. As a student, this is an extremely precious characteristic to have in part-time work.
This year there were seven positions available, including two programming assistants, as well as an assistant working primarily with FNH's new radio show "Indigenous Waves" (CIUT 89.5 FM).
Student Zoi de la Peña was drawn to the atmosphere and the vibe of FNH after having visited a few times. When she needed a job last year she applied for one of the positions and took on the role of Resource Centre Assistant.
"It's like a little family here," de la Peña said. "Everyone is so warm and friendly and we always joke around and have really good conversations." Working here gave de la Peña the chance to become familiar with the resources and she was able to guide students that came in with their research topics.
Something I realized for myself when speaking with Zoi about her time at FNH, was just how influential it was on my life as a student. Whether it was because I was working on campus or that I was around such great resources and people aspiring to achieve success in academics, my involvement in the program has definitely given me the drive to push myself further and to dream bigger dreams. The work-study position became so much more than just a job but a circle of work, study and community. The more you are around this place, the more you realize how abundant the resources are, how invaluable the connections you make are and how much fun school can be.
For more information on Work Study opportunities, visit http://www.careers.utoronto.ca/jobsearch/workstudy.aspx or http://www.fnh.utoronto.ca/Current-Students/Financial-Aid/Work-Study.htm