Hazelton resident and graduate of Northwest Community College Martha Wilson has a story of inspiration involving a scholarship opportunity.
The NWCC issued a press release recently to tell of Wilson’s experience as a mother and grandmother who recently found out she was selected as a 2011 Upper-Year W. Garfield Weston Scholar which is an award with a valued at $25,000.
The award includes a tuition waiver from the college they attend, a grant of $8,000 towards their living expenses, access to a mentorship program, summer funding and a leadership conference in Toronto.
However, most importantly, the scholarship will allow Wilson to pursue her career goal of becoming a clinical psychologist.
The NWCC said “the award caps an eventful two years for Wilson, who graduated with two full-time program credentials this spring.” One was an Associate Degree in Arts and the second was a Social Service Worker diploma.
She told NWCC that as a proud Gitxsan member of the Wolf (Laxgibuu) Clan belonging to House of Niik’yap, she plans to continue at NWCC this fall, working on credits she’ll need to eventually transfer to a Bachelor program at UNBC in Prince George. She said she’s grateful for the help she received at the College when she suffered a stroke in December 2008.
Yet nothing was going to stop Wilson from her plans and achievements she said.
“I set a goal for myself: nothing less than graduating with honours was acceptable,” explained Wilson. “The results gave me a lot of validation that if you really want something, it’s never too late.”
Yet according to NWCC, the foundation for Wilson’s big scholarship was built before she returned to school.
“She has worked in the social service field for 25 years, she owns her own consulting business in which she facilitates workshops on healing, conscious parenting and gives one-on-one counselling, and she has volunteered her time with the Highway of Tears advocacy, the Gitxsan Health Society and Gitanmaax interagency for youth at risk,” NWCC Director of Communications and College Advancement, Kritsine Kofoed wrote. “The turning point for Wilson’s community work came when her cousin became a Highway of Tears victim. Ramona Wilson went missing from Smithers in 1994 and her remains were found a year later near town.”
For Wilson, the family tragedy was and is part of her motivation.
“It was an issue really dear to my heart,” Wilson said. “To get involved with the Highway of Tears, Gitxsan Health and youth is something natural for me. If somebody needs help, you step up… you don’t do it because you have to, you do it because you want to.”
In addition to academic achievement, Kofoed said the Garfield Weston Foundation judges award finalists in three areas: community service, leadership and character and integrity, which she said are “attributes Wilson displays in spades.”
The award interview process was intensive, Kofoed explained, with one phone interview and five in-person interviews in Toronto.
“As part of the latter, Wilson had to present two hypothetical summer projects, one domestic and one abroad, and she drew on her passion for issues relating to First Nations women, youth, health and poverty,” Kofoed said. “Wilson says she still can’t quite believe the scope of her award, which is the biggest, but certainly not the only one she’s recently earned. She is also the recipient of two NWCC awards, the Patti Barnes Humanitarian Award which is valued at $2,000 and the Northern Institute of Resource Studies Scholarships worth $500 among others.”
While Wilson is proud of her successes she is also humbled.
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” Wilson told Kofoed. “I think living in the North, you have to create what you have, you have to be resourceful.”
Kofoed also added that NWCC President, Dr. Denise Henning, is a big believer in the doors of opportunity that open through education and she says Wilson’s story is a perfect example.
“Northwest Community College is truly a better place for having a student and person the calibre of Martha Wilson,” said Dr. Henning. “Hers is a story that anyone could draw inspiration from and we wish her every success in pursuing her career goals.”