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Aamjiwnaang First Nation Anishinaabekwe recognized as one of Canada Post’s 2022 Awards for Indigenous Students

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Aamjiwnaang’s Jessica Plain was recently recognized as one of 25 winners of Canada Post’s 2022 Awards for Indigenous Students for her dedication to her studies as a social service worker student at Lambton College. – Photo supplied

By Rick Garrick

SARNIA — Aamjiwnaang First Nation’s Jessica Plain credits her dedication to her studies as a social service worker student for being recognized as one of 25 winners of Canada Post’s 2022 Awards for Indigenous Students. Canada Post has been granting the $2,000 awards since 2004 to up to 25 Indigenous students from across the country who have resumed studies after being away from school for at least 12 months and have completed at least one full year of study.

“I was actually very overwhelmed that I was chosen,” Plain says. “I was extremely happy and proud of myself because I know how far I’ve come and how much work I’ve put in to get to where I’m at today.”

Plain says she chose to study the Social Service Worker program at Lambton College in order to help in her community once she completes her studies. The two-year program includes about 650 hours of supervised experiential field placement and an additional 60-plus hours of volunteer work in the community.

“We are doing a lot of empathetic responses, learning how to talk to people that are struggling with mental health or addiction,” Plain says. “So we’re just learning ways how to communicate with them and help them see different choices than what they are making.”

Plain says she previously had a drug addiction but decided to turn her life around about six years ago after she developed endocarditis and underwent open heart surgery.

“I decided to go to treatment and turn my life around,” Plain says. “Then I told myself I was going to take a program where I could help where I felt resources were lacking when I was struggling in my addiction, so that is why I chose to get into the Social Service Worker [program].”

Plain says a lot of people in her community, including those who are struggling with addictions, are proud of how she has turned her life around.

“They’re like, ‘Seeing you turn your life around and doing all these things actually gives me hope, knowing that when I’m ready and some day that I can turn my life around,’” Plain says. “My dream is to go back and help people that are struggling, whether it’s in mental health, addictions, that what I hold near and dear to my heart.”

Plain says that she enjoys studying at Lambton College, noting that it is a very positive community.

“Everybody is very friendly, it was very welcoming,” Plain says. “There are a lot of great resources for any student going there.”

Plain says many of the instructors in the Social Service Worker program have a background in social services.

“So it gives us a lot of insight into things we will be doing,” Plain says. “We hear a lot of stories where they helped in the community, so that’s really refreshing just to give scenarios about what it is like to be out in the field.”

Other than Plain, three other award recipients were also from Ontario: Beausoleil First Nation’s Chett Monague, Six Nations’ Emily Abrams and Moose Cree’s Tara Hutchinson. The other recipients from across the country were Tannicka Reeves, from the Yukon; Cayla Gillis from the Northwest Territories; Alesha-Elijah Tiglik from Nunavut; Darryl Gray, Jeremiah Hyslop, Suzie Kimball, Samuel McDonald and Mackenzie Vandale Roode from B.C.; Cole Crane, Chelsea Garbanewski, Cheyenne Hall, Vanessa Paterson, and Jona Sparvier from Alberta; Michelle Meeches, Colton Pratt, and Jacqueline Valois from Saskatchewan; Angel Lefebvre from Manitoba; Cynthia Denny from Nova Scotia; and Crystal Anderson, Madison Bennett, and Megan Dicker from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Information on how to apply for the Awards for Indigenous Students is posted online.

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