Pride in self is important to success of youth
By Shari Narine
“Never let hardships define your future,” said Melissa Gilpin. That is more than a motto for Gilpin; it is a philosophy she wants to impart on Indigenous youth.
“I'm 26 years and honestly I can say I've been through a lot in my life. Been through a lot of rough patches in my life. I feel like I gained a lot of knowledge and experience and it could be beneficial for me to help other Aboriginal youth,” said the member of The Crees of Waskaganish First Nations, who has been nominated for Cando’s National Youth Panel.
In her nomination letter, Karen Morrison-Gilpin, with the Cree School Board, called Gilpin a “treasure… who has an incredible story of resilience, determination, strength and courage. She has experienced extraordinary losses, challenges and successes.”
“I feel very humbled and thankful that someone has nominated me for this,” said Gilpin.
Gilpin believes that education equals opportunity. She left her home and family at 13 years of age to attend Stanstead College, a high school in southern Quebec. Today, she is enrolled at the University of Ottawa in the faculty of health and in the second year of a four-year honours bachelor degree in Human Kinect.
In 2016, she was recognized as one of the recipients of the Canada Post Aboriginal Incentive Award for writing an essay outlining the obstacles and challenges she had to overcome in pursuit of a higher education.
Gilpin also prioritizes community development, raising money to provide nutrition, education, and healthy living programming for youth in northern communities as well as traveling to Fiji and Costa Rica to work with villagers to promote sustainable community development.
“My future goals are to complete my degree and I desire to be an inspiration and a motivational speaker,” she said.
As far as Morrison-Gilpin is concerned, Gilpin has already achieved that goal. “Melissa’s energy, vigour for life and strength is an inspiration to us all. She encourages us to strive for greatness, live to our fullest potential and see the best in ourselves.”
If successful in her bid to be on the National Youth Panel, Gilpin stresses that one of her priorities will be to ensure that youth are always proud of who they are.
Each year Cando selects six Indigenous youth to form the National Youth Panel, a signature event at the Cando Annual National Conference which will be held in Fredericton, New Brunswick, from Oct. 22-25. Selections for the panel are based on their strengths, initiatives, accomplishments, entrepreneurial spirit, and participation within their communities.