Learning and Earning Across The Country: Meeka Blake’s Professional Journey Inspired by her Kids
“I had a good life, but I want to give them an even better life,” Meeka Blake explains, reflecting on her motivation to excel in her career: being able to take good care of her kids. She grew up in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. After high school, she started working locally, then moved with her family to Ottawa. She tried university for a year and a half before realizing it wasn’t for her and heading back North to work again. “I've gotten a lot of great opportunities, just plugging away and learning as I go,” she smiles.
These days Blake works for Jordan’s Principle as a junior program manager. Three months after her start date, she has found the training intense leading up to serving clients directly. She got the job by networking - a friend told her about the work she was doing working for the federal government and offered to share Blake’s resume with her boss. She was able to get hired. “You’ve got to make those connections with people and learn to use your voice and say, ‘Well, I could do that, too,’” she explains.
As she made her way through her career, she took training opportunities to get ahead in the places she’s been hired. By learning more, Blake was able to earn more. “I just kept going, I just had to plow through them if I wanted to be where I am now,” she remembers. She’s had great opportunities in her professional life, even working with a local politician.
If she could give a message to her younger self, it would be, “You don't have to go to school. You have to stress about school.” She recalls how she didn’t pass most of her classes while feeling lonely. She didn’t want to leave Inuvik, but her family was leaving and she didn’t have anywhere else to live. Looking back, she also wishes she had sought help when she was stressed, because there were people willing to help her with their wisdom and experience. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she would tell herself.
Her advice for Indigenous youth leaving home in search of opportunity is to find people who help them feel at home or are from their home community to avoid loneliness. “Those are the people who are going to keep you strong while you're away at school,” she suggests. Indigenous resource rooms at universities are sources of support she recommends, though she didn’t take advantage of the opportunity for support herself. She thought being Inuit from the north that they couldn’t help or accept her and she wishes she had given it a try. “Try, try, try,” she urges,
To manage her mental health and wellness, Blake would talk to her mom, her grandmothers and her peers. There were always people she could talk to. When she first sought therapy, she was worried about being seen going there and what people would think, especially in a small town like Inuvik. The speculation and stigma made her uncomfortable.
Later, when she was living in Whitehorse, she did two years of therapy, something that made a big difference in her personal issues and helped her to make decisions about what’s going to happen next that would be in her daughters’ best interest. She learned to push herself and not look back and go back to things that weren't good to her. She also learned to believe there was something better out there for her.
Blake draws inspiration from the women who blazed trails ahead of her, like her late grandmother, Bertha Allen, who founded the Native Women’s Association of the Northwest Territories. She’s also inspired by her two daughters who just want to enjoy life and see everything. The people she loves drive her to work hard towards the future.
In the end, Blake got where she wanted to be, despite the obstacles she faced. “I'm here today and I love the connections that I've made throughout my whole working life. I'm glad to be here in Edmonton, and I'm glad to be working for the federal government with Jordan's principle. It's very rewarding to know that I have somewhere to be,” she beams. She’s had a good life and wants to give her kids an even better life, and that’s what she’s working towards every day.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.