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Reflections From A Recent Grad Aviation Grad

Delilah Saunders (DS) interviewed past and present winners of Loretta Saunders scholarships, including Samantha Goodyear (SG), who graduated from FNTI's First Peoples' Aviation Technology - Flight program in 2015. (excerpted, with permission, from a post on the Halifax Media Coop site: http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/story/interviews-loretta-saunders-community-scholarship/34236)

DS: How has the scholarship helped you?

SG: Attending college at First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI) in southern Ontario had been emotionally, mentally and physically challenging for me. It was my first time leaving the province of Labrador – I had no idea what this new world could offer me. But, diving into something unknown helped me to build my character into the woman I wanted to be. I almost never boarded that plane at the Goose Bay airport to fly to Kingston, Ontario. I am very grateful I pushed myself to do so.

In my final year at FNTI I completed my academic courses, leaving me with Flight Training and Ground School for the 2015 semester. I knew I would flip from a full-time student to a part-time student, which demoted my privileges as well. So, I applied for the Loretta Saunders Community Scholarship Fund, the first scholarship I had ever applied for, told them my situation and passion to complete my final semester. And they listened. I was first notified through e-mail from the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia that I would be one of four recipients. It didn’t hit me until I received a letter in the mail, which is when I cried in full sobbing tears reading the letter. It wasn’t just overwhelming happiness – it felt as though Loretta herself had sent it to me. Not only did I need it – I followed the story of her passing deeply – this hit my heart because this hit my hometown, a small town where everyone knows just about everyone.

With the Scholarship I was able to pay a couple of months rent and bills in advance. I was able to stay in College. I even opened a savings account where a small portion went for future career possibilities, like moving for an unforeseen job position. My biggest investment went towards a noise-cancelling headset, Bose A320, for flight purposes, as a pilot my hearing will deteriorate over years of noise and vibrations and this headset will help prevent that decline. Without the Loretta Saunders Community Scholarship Fund my dreams wouldn’t have come true [in the way that they did]. For that I am deeply grateful.

DS: How are you doing in your studies or when did you graduate?

SG: I graduated in June 2015 and it has been extremely rewarding! Three long years – I would be lying if I were to say there weren’t times I wanted to quit. I fought through hard times, like being away from home when several of my friends and family members passed away; homesickness; and work overload. I remembered why I was here in College, what I didn’t want to start over given how far I had come. My grades and flight training we’re consistently between A’s and B’s. I now have my Advanced Diploma hanging on my wall.

DS: What are some sentiments you would like to pass on to future applicants and Indigenous women who are considering going to school?

SG: Do not become discouraged. I applied for funding two years in a row before it was granted to me. At the time I struggled between waitressing and bartending, but I was persistent. Know that you are in control of your life and working towards [your goals] in big steps or small, it will come to you. I went to College with a Cree woman who had three children and we graduated together, which brings me to sticking together; do not hesitate to ask for help. She helped me to understand our studies and I was able to reciprocate through our years studying together. Be a dreamer, go for what you want. I researched over 800 job titles, careers and trades before I choose to be a pilot in my early 20’s.

Fun fact: only 6% of pilots are women in the world and 11% of pilots are women in Canada – don’t let a male-dominated field discourage you either. Be proud of who you are and where you came from. I’ve met so many Cree, Mohawk, and Ojibwa women, who taught me a lot of other traditions where we burned sweet grass and sage. And finally my favorite words of wisdom: “Those who hoot with the owls at night do not fly with the eagles at day”.

Loretta Saunders was an Inuk woman attending Saint Mary’s University in Halifax and just months away from completing an honours degree in Criminology when she was brutally murdered in February 2014.  In order to honour Loretta’s passion about justice for indigenous peoples and her dedication to her university studies, Dr. Darryl Leroux and Molly Peters -- the co-recipient of the 2013 Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association (NSNWA) women of the year award -- created this Fund. The Loretta Sauders Community Scholarship Fund is open to Indigenous women who are attending a post-secondary institution in Mi’kma’ki, Nunatsiavut, or Atlantic Canada and who have completed the equivalent of one year of post-secondary education in the previous two years. Award Value & Application Process Awards can range from $500 to $2,000. The application deadline is September 30th. The fund accepts donations at all times and provides donors with a charitable tax receipt. For more information or to download an application, please visit www.cfns.ca.