When Robyn Inglangasuk moved to British Columbia from the Northwest Territories, there was one cultural shock she was not prepared for — every employer wanted to see a high school diploma.
Growing up in northern Canada, Inglangasuk says going to class was not taken as seriously as many jobs in her community don’t require an education. People often start working as teenagers, skipping school to make money and then end up never graduating.
"In school, people came and went as they pleased. You weren’t hounded if you didn’t show up for class, it was very relaxed,” Inglangasuk explains, adding she dropped out of school in grade 11 to work.
"There’s no accountability there so if you want to quit school then you just quit with no questions asked."
Inglangasuk worked as a manager at a grocery store for many years and although she thought about returning to school, she knew it would be too easy to quit. The decision to move to Smithers came when Inglangasuk and her partner were expecting their first daughter and wanted their family to have more opportunities.
Realizing no one would hire her in British Columbia, she enrolled in the Career & College Preparation (CCP) Certificate program at Coast Mountain College (CMTN) to attain her BC Adult Graduation Diploma. She then stopped attending as she felt overwhelmed with the new baby and other events in her life.
“I was trying to take care of everything all at once while going to school and it was just too hard, I then finally found work but I wasn’t happy with my job,” Inglangasuk says.
“It was always on my mind... I saw my daughter graduate preschool and she was so excited about it, so I told myself that I have to do it regardless of my age because I also wanted that satisfaction, that milestone to be proud of.”
Four years later in 2019, she tried again and was surprised with how encouraging the College was getting her back on track.
“The instructors were overwhelmingly supportive and that made it easy because I'm not the type of person who lets everyone in, I'm very sheltered. By them being so welcoming, I felt comfortable sharing my struggles which helped ease them.”
At that point, Inglangasuk had just welcomed another daughter and was nervous it would be too much again. The College made it possible that when she couldn’t find a babysitter to watch her kids, she could bring them to class. She says the instructors and her classmates were very understanding, which was what enabled her to succeed despite the barriers that motherhood can bring.
“The staff really made the big difference; they would all go out of their way to make it happen for me.”
She adds she was impressed with the number of free activities she could partake in as a student. She signed up for everything she could to learn new things such as making quilts or moccasins. Her kids would join in too as it was a great way to have fun while meeting other people.
When Inglagasuk graduated in 2020, she says it was emotional to have her five-year-old watch her get that diploma. Although it was a long journey, her daughter’s excitement made her want to keep going.
Now, Inglagasuk is working towards getting into Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). She started taking online courses at Pacific Rim College and was supposed to apprentice at a local pre-school when the pandemic hit. She put school on pause to work at a financial institution but says when things return to normal, she plans to enroll in the ECCE program at CMTN.
“My ambitions are stronger now after getting that diploma, I’m so eager to continue on with a new career and focus on myself,” she says.
"Education for me is being able to open so many doors by just having that piece of paper. I can now show my children proudly that hard work at school does actually change your life.”