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Andrea – Facing Her Fears and Fulfilling a Dream 

Andrea Smallboy, A 65-year-old graduate of MaKami's health care aide program, sits in a classroom holding an iPad, smiling at the camera.

Andrea Smallboy has overcome enormous challenges and fulfilled her dream of becoming a health care aide at 65 years old. 

Before moving to Calgary, Andrea lived with her younger sister Lisa on a small reservation in Alberta. She loved taking care of the elderly and initially wanted to become a nurse, but as a residential school survivor, Andrea was hesitant to return to school.  

Like many residential school survivors, Andrea experienced trauma as a young Cree child in school, and she carried those experiences with her throughout her lifetime.  

“The abuse really affected me with any relationship and with schooling. I really wanted to upgrade my education but I was afraid to go.” 

Eventually the sisters, who have similar interests, left their community to upgrade together at a college in Red Deer. 

“That was a challenge. There were many times I wanted to just get up and leave,” Andrea admits. “There were also times where I would literally freeze, and I would need to pull myself out of it and remind myself that this is different.”  

She managed to persevere, and after completing her upgrading, Andrea found out about health care aides, and thought it would fit her passion for helping others. When a friend recommended MaKami College to Andrea and her sister, they decided to enroll in the 10-month Health Care Aide (HCA) Certificate Program. 

Although Andrea was excited to pursue her education at MaKami, it was not easy for her.  

“I definitely still struggled, but I decided to work to open up and learn rather than letting my fear take over,” Andrea says. “I kept encouraging myself that I could do this, and I wasn’t going to let anyone past, present or future take that away.”  

MaKami’s supportive environment also helped Andrea along her journey. “My experience at MaKami was amazing – many of my classmates also spoke two languages so I felt more comfortable that we all shared those languages and culture struggles. I made many great friends, and we all became very close, helping each other along the way.”  

Andrea also liked her instructors, who connected to students by listening and sharing stories. “The teachers at MaKami focus on helping people from different languages and cultures, because we all learn differently. They were always there for us if we got stuck.” 

Having just recently graduated, Andrea says right now she will go wherever she gets hired. But ultimately, she would like to return to her reservation.  

“In Indigenous communities, we care for our elderly at home, and now you need to have a certificate in order to help them, so I’m excited to be able to go back and help my community.” 

Although the program was a challenge for Andrea, at the end of the day she was driven to show a different path for her eight children and 18 grandchildren.  “I wanted to show them you can’t give up, that you can keep going despite your challenges and carve out a better future for yourself and your family.” 

And it worked – one of Andrea’s daughters is now upgrading to take the HCA Program at MaKami.  

“You’re never too old to learn something, no matter the age.”  

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