MacKenzie Demerah

From Kugluktuk to Calgary: Mackenzie Demerah’s Exploration in Education

“My education was always really important to me. I love going to school. I love taking these math and science classes. I knew that when I finished high school that I wanted to go back into school and eventually become a teacher to teach and show these kids the passion for school. That's what made me go into post secondary,” Mackenzie Demerah recalls.

She grew up in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, and she just completed her first year at the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Student Access Program. She’s preparing academically to undertake a bachelor’s of education while participating in Indigenous cultural activities and learning more about other Indigenous people as part of this specialized program. Demerah is there following in the footsteps of the educators who inspired her while she was a student.

“My motivation was always the teachers I had in school. They had such a great impact on me that I want to be able to teach in a classroom in Nunavut and have this impact on the youth here,” she continues, sharing about how right from elementary school teaching was what she wanted to do. She loved being at school and has always been interested in education and loved the teaching environment. Demerah also coached soccer and doesn’t have an age preference for students yet but she’s excited to learn more as she continues her path getting ready to work at her dream job.

“I feel like my biggest challenge when leaving home was missing it. But then every time I was missing it, I just call a teacher or a friend, someone from my community and just talk to them. I feel like the biggest thing is to remind yourself that this is temporary, and your home is always going to be home, you have people who will help you and people who are willing to be there for you,” Demerah shares, encouraging youth considering leaving home to pursue their education to keep things in perspective.

Illustration by Shaikara David

She also wants them to know that they don’t have to do it alone and to reach out when they are having a hard time with something. “There's a lot of people who are willing to help you. Look for that help, just stick with it. Don't be shy to ask for help,” she advises.

To manage the stress of homework and missing her family and friends back home, Demerah takes time for herself, watches movies as a distraction and practices good self-care. She spends time with other Indigenous people from her program, getting together to smudge and go to drum circles. The other challenge she had was in finding funding for her education, but an amazing teacher helped her apply to find what she needed to support the costs of going to school far from home.

“I'm from a community of 1600 people and now I live in a community with 1.2 million people.”

Looking back, she wishes she had more of an introduction to what post secondary school is like, and how many different options are available. She would love to see more of that kind of information to be accessible for Nunavut high school students because she pursued going to school at University of Calgary after a Connected North session she attended in grade 12. “It showed me that university is not this really overwhelming thing, as long as you have these people who are showing you what it's like, and how to deal with it,” she remembers.

She wanted other students to have a similar experience of feeling empowered and informed about the best way forward to succeed in university. That’s why Demerah did a presentation to a Northern high school about her post secondary experience with tips for those thinking about pursuing their education. The session helped open up their eyes to the possibilities, which is what she had hoped.

Growing up with such wonderful educational role models, she’s back in school in hopes of learning to become one herself.  “I feel like what inspires me most is just my passion for education and my passion about coming back to Nunavut and teaching these youth, having my own classroom, and being a teacher in a classroom like where I was doing my schooling… just the idea of it and everything just really drives me to finish schooling to become a teacher,” Mackenzie Demerah explains. She might be geographically far from home community, but it’s close in her heart, driving her forward.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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    January 30, 2023
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