Hailing from Sandy Lake First Nation, Lakeishia Meekis is among the next cohort of graduates in Lakehead University's Achievement Program.
When you meet Lakeishia, you're struck by the aura of warmth about her. Her broad smile and bright eyes impress a feeling of caring and benevolence. It is these qualities, and many more, that will carry her into her first year at Lakehead, where she will enter the Indigenous Transition Program in the fall. Her future plans lean towards pursuing a degree in Gender and Women's Studies or Nursing. Thanks to Lakeishia's completion of the Achievement Program, her first year's tuition costs will be covered.
Lakeishia's mother, Elene, has been supportive of her attending the Achievement Program since her daughter was in elementary school.
"I heard about the program from her teacher at Sherbrooke Public School," says Elene. "When I learned that Lakeishia could be there in the Achievement Program at the University, I thought that was a good place for her to be, and that she would eventually be a student there if she stuck with it."
Elene made sure that she did keep going. With some gentle nudges along the way, Lakeishia has been in the Achievement program from the time she was nine years old until her graduation from high school, and she is thankful for the family support.
I'm glad my mom kept pushing me to do it, to keep going. I feel proud of myself and happy to be where I am today.
"When I first went, I thought it was a one-time thing. I liked being at Lakehead and learning with a smaller group of people. I remember walking around campus with Mom, and her saying, 'Look where you will go when you're older.' It's kind of hard to believe, but the time is coming soon when I will be a student there."
Lakeishia is the first in her immediate family to attend university, although she did get inspiration along the way from her uncle, who is now a professional animator working in Ottawa.
"My brother followed his love of drawing. He used to get scolded in school for daydreaming and doodling in class, but now he is doing very well with his artistic skills," Elene recalls with a chuckle. "He was a role model for Lakeishia."
Lakeishia has family members in Thunder Bay and in Sandy Lake, including two sisters and a brother, and this motivates her to continue on her path.
"It makes me happy that I can be a role model for other students and family," she gushes. "It makes me feel proud," she adds.
Achievement Program Coordinator Amanda Stefanile has watched Lakeishia go through the program from day one.
"Lakeishia has always been present, has been a quiet leader among her peers," remarks Amanda. "She speaks from a place of honesty, of authenticity, and has always remained very connected to her roots in Sandy Lake. I couldn't be happier for her and look forward to being on hand to help guide her through life at Lakehead when she starts attending classes."
Lakeishia's message to the younger students considering the Achievement Program is simple.
"Just keep going, keep pushing yourself. The Achievement Program always gave me lots of learning opportunities."
Students who successfully complete the Achievement Program are eligible for financial support, to a maximum of the first year of tuition at Lakehead. These funds can also be used towards other postsecondary educational expenses. Thanks to generous support and ongoing fundraising efforts, the Achievement Program is offered through a partnership with regional school boards at no cost to families.