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Lisa – Opening a World of Potential  

Lisa Smallboy and MaKami Max mascot with her sister Andrea at her graduation from MaKami College's Health Care Aide program

Lisa Smallboy broke out of her comfort zone to pursue a career as a health care aide and the experience has unlocked a world of opportunity.  

Nine years ago, Lisa and her older sister Andrea lived in a small reservation in rural Alberta, and both wanted to work in the health care field.  

I wanted to take care of people, especially the elderly, and just help them out any way I could.”  

Lisa’s late husband encouraged her to pursue her dreams. His health challenges added to her desire to work in health care. Looking back, she remembers how she needed the skills to care for him when he was in his wheelchair.  

However, she had to leave her home for that education. Eight years after her husband’s death, she went to school. “I knew it was going to be a long process: going to school, leaving my community, coming out of my comfort zone and just going and pursuing it and getting it done. It took a while, but I got there.” 

After leaving their home, the sisters upgraded their education at Red Deer College, then started a health care aide program at another college. However, it did not have the learning support that MaKami provides.  

Lisa was working at a spa in Kananaskis when a friend who had completed MaKami’s Massage Therapy program told her about the Health Care Aide Certificate Program.  

“She told us that MaKami College was a good college to go to because they help diverse people through their program.” With that recommendation, Lisa and Andrea decided to enroll together.  

“We both have the same interests,” Lisa explains. “We had each other, helped each other, and supported each other. And we couldn’t have done it without each other.”  

Once Lisa started her program, she struggled to understand some material because Cree is her first language, not English. “English is a tough language,” she says. “But our teachers explained [the words] to us.”  

Lisa is grateful to SALT and her teachers for their help and patience. 

“Our teachers explained things so that we could understand what we needed to learn from this course,” says Lisa. “That kind of gave us more confidence that, ‘Okay, we can do this job, we can do this, we can finish this course.’” 

And in SALT, the Learning Strategists taught Lisa how to study, manage her time and remember the harder words.  

“I would recommend other students not to be shy and just go for that help because they’re there to help you, to support you through this course.” 

Lisa loved the HCA program and her time at MaKami. 

She says the hands-on experience of the program was especially useful. “That helped me learn about how you can do things to take care of people.” Meeting different people also helped her become more confident and communicate better. 

“I like all home care; I like long-term care and I like independent care. So, it’s going to be a tough decision for where I’m going to decide where to work, but I’m looking forward to it.” 

Lisa recommends MaKami to others considering a career as a health care aide.  

“I would encourage anyone who is interested in working in the healthcare field to come to MaKami because they will help them through it like they helped us.” 

Although it was nerve-wracking and meant leaving her community and her comfort zone to pursue her dream, it was worth it.  

“I can’t wait to just get out there and do what I came to school for.”