Safeguarding Records and His Future: Roger McDonald-Colombe Secures His Dreams With Education
“This is my journey alone. I'm the author of my journey. How it shapes out is up to me,” says Roger McDonald-Colombe. He lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba and he works for Indigenous Services Canada. When he’s at work, he handles all the records of the Manitoba region, ensuring they are safely and properly stored, digitized and accessible to members of the public service.
He came into the role through the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP), a bridging program that brings students into the public service from high school and university. McDonald-Colombe’s field of study is HR and the FSWEP program has been a good opportunity for him and has built on the studies he’s undertaken so far.
McDonald-Colombe struggled in high school but after three attempts, he graduated. He did it with the support and encouragement of his aunt who told him he needed to go to school or work. When he finished high school, she said she would give him furniture if he continued on to college and he decided to take her up on the offer.
The reason he did so well under her guidance was that she gave him options instead of forcing him to do what she thought he should do. As the author of his journey, he was able to make the right choices for himself. That sense of autonomy kept him from going down the wrong path, because he was choosing the right path freely.
In post-secondary, he studied Indigenous governance and business at the University College of the North, then started the Bachelor of Business Administration program at the University of Winnipeg. He selected a minor in conflict resolution, then moved to a double major in conflict resolution and business. From there, he started to pursue two degree programs, a Bachelor of Arts degree in conflict resolution, which he completed, and a business administration degree, which is on hold as he pursues a Masters in Business at the University of Manitoba.
He was encouraged by his sister, who wanted to see him keep going with his goals. She passed away from cancer and the support she gave him while she was alive meant a lot to him. His academic advisor at university helped him rally after he received his first F, telling him he could replace the grade with something better if he redid the course. He drew on his support system and he did just that, successfully completing the course he struggled with.
McDonald-Colombe has faced these challenges in school and in life while living with multiple sclerosis. “Some days are harder than others,” he says, reflecting on the difficulty of living with a chronic health condition. He participates in an online support group to help keep his spirits up and he is inspired by the stories of other patients. He’s also inspired by his community leaders, who said they would support him if he went to school and completed his courses. Signing that contract to complete his studies motivated him to get A’s and B’s.
School has been hard, but he’s been getting through it. To manage his mental health and the toll of the downtime of the pandemic, McDonald-Colombe taught himself to paint. He spent time writing poetry and making art like he did growing up. He used to love to read and draw when he was a kid and at one point he taught himself to cut hair.
While the hobbies of his past have got him through tough times, when he looks to his own future, he thinks about his academic goals and how he hopes to succeed in his masters program. When it comes to the future of Indigenous youth, he hopes they are inspired by the leaders in the world who broke down barriers for them and that they will take what they have learned and will do the same for their elders, breaking down the barriers that remain.
McDonald-Colombe has words of wisdom he hopes will inspire them too. He says, “You're going to go through a lot of challenges, and life is going to be challenging…We go through life and what we go through makes us who we are…Be there for someone else. It’s what we go through that shapes us.”
As the author of his journey, Roger McDonald-Colombe knows how it shapes out is up to him. It’s his journey alone, but he carries with him hope for the youth of his community. Working in records management, he makes sure documents are safely stored and protected, and as he makes his way through graduate studies, he’s ensuring his future is just as secure.
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.