My Journey So Far…

A JAC Student’s Inspiring Story

Melissa Mailette-Matte (Contributor)

My name is Melissa Mallette-Matte. I’m a Mohawk from Kanesatake and I recently just re-enrolled in CEGEP again at John Abbott College in the Visual Arts program. I’m enjoying my courses, and I’m doing well so far. I was here at JAC about five years ago in the CALL program, but had a hard time adjusting to CEGEP life and the overall workload. At that time, it became too difficult for me to concentrate and to keep up to with schoolwork as I had many responsibilities to take care of, notably personal problems and family issues. I didn’t do so well and ended up dropping out in my second semester. My goal was always to go on and continue with my education, and I saw nowhere else to go except to return to JAC. It’s a great school and it has a beautiful campus, but what makes it even better is all the support you get from the staff and services offered here; such as the services provided by the Aboriginal Student Resource Center. They’re amazing! They’re there to help us succeed and do well, and they give us personal and academic advice and guide us in the right direction.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be back here at JAC if it weren’t for Mike O’Connor, the pedagogical counsellor and Louise Legault, the coordinator of the Aboriginal Student Resource Center. A few other people who have helped me throughout the years, like my former councillor Zivile Jurkus who currently works at my old high school, and tutor Rola Helou deserve mention as well. And, of course, my mom and dad! Seriously though, they’re all wonderful and I wouldn’t be here today and where I am in my life right now if it wasn’t for these special people; especially Mike O’Connor from the Aboriginal Student Resource Center. Thank you Mike for everything you do, every day! You help us all in little ways, but those little things are what make the biggest changes of all in us.

In early October, I went to Québec City to visit the Assemblée Nationale to receive a special award. I was nominated for the Prix Leviers by Jennifer Cooke, the director of ICI par les arts, an organization dedicated to improving young people’s lives through art and culture. The Prix Leviers award recognizes young people who have demonstrated personal growth and excellence in the arts. During my time away from JAC, while I was out of school for three years, I took part in a few different programs such as ICI par les Arts. This was by far the best choice I ever made! They realized I had more potential than I let on and this experience helped me to come out of my shell and do excellent work in the program at the art studio.

Going to Québec City was a spectacular event. Just to be in the same room as the Honourable Premier of Québec, Dr. Philippe Couillaird, was an experience in itself. I never would have imagined or thought that I’d be in the same room, let alone actually meet and shake hands with the Premier, and all the important people around him. They really have no idea how much of an impact it has had on me. I even had trouble sleeping that night! After winning the award, I thought to myself that all this would not have been possible if it weren’t for the people I admire and look up to everyday, the ones who have made a big impact on my life! So once again, a big thank you goes out to all of the people I have mentioned. One last thing to the students of JAC, especially those who may have doubts as to why they are here: Never give up on your dreams and your expectations because they are the only things that will keep you moving forward in life.

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