IMG_1408Geraldine King (Gull Bay First Nation)

Canadian Studies, Minor in Indigenous Studies

Graduated in 2014 (currently pursuing her Ph.D. at Queen’s University)

Speaking to Geraldine King today, it is clear that she is made to be a scholar: she has a perfect Grade Point Average and has gotten scholarship applications down to a science. So, it comes as a surprise to some to learn that Geraldine did not finish high school.

Geraldine had been in the workforce, doing a job she loved, when she made the decision to apply for university. “I always knew I wanted to get my Bachelor’s degree,” Geraldine says. “But going back to school to finish my high school diploma then applying to university always seemed like such a daunting task.”

Then Geraldine heard about Carleton’s Indigenous Enriched Support Program (AESP), an alternative admissions process that helps prospective students who don’t meet traditional entrance requirements gain access to undergraduate degree programs. After meeting with the AESP Coordinator, Geraldine was advised to apply as a Mature Student rather than going through an AESP year.

Geraldine remembers everything: placing her application in an envelope and mailing it off; getting a call from an Admissions Officer asking for a bit more information; and, finally, receiving her offer of acceptance to the BA Honours in Canadian Studies.

Becoming a university student did not come without its challenges. Geraldine is the first in her extended family to attend university, so she relied on the advice of friends when it came to navigating the system. And as a mother who also cares for her younger brother, Geraldine admits to enduring some financial hardship.

But for all of the challenges Geraldine faces, her favourite thing about life at Carleton is the opportunities it has afforded her. In her three years here, Geraldine has presented at academic and language conferences, travelled to Europe for the March of Remembrance and Hope, won scholarships and made connections with other Indigenous scholars.

“There are some great supports out there for Indigenous students,” Geraldine notes. “I think that’s one of the things that struck me most—there is always someone around to help, whether it’s my band, Kagita Mikam, professors who encourage me to write about Indigenous topics, or the community of Indigenous students and staff at Carleton who support each other.

“My advice to students thinking about university is not to be afraid to jump in. It’s not a scary place. And if you stumble, someone will be there to catch you,” says Geraldine. She credits the non-judgmental space that Carleton creates, where she is able to honour her identity as Anishinaabe and where professors understand the unique circumstances that Indigenous students face, for part of her success.

And what a success she has been.

Geraldine thinks back to her first year at Carleton and remembers the goal she set for herself: “I wanted to be on the Deans’ Honour List for at least one of my years at Carleton.” After accomplishing that in her very first year, Geraldine challenged herself to do it again. Now, entering the fourth and final year of her BA, Geraldine has been on the Deans’ Honour List every semester and hopes to win a Senate Medal when she graduates.

“My greatest accomplishment is simply being this close to getting my BA,” says Geraldine. “And, of course, doing as well as I have along the way. I’ve always had admiration and envy of Indigenous people who’ve gotten their degrees, all the while being parents and dealing with other issues. Soon, I’ll be able to count myself among them.”

Editor’s Note: Geraldine worked at the Centre for Indigenous Initiatives as a student, and was the brains behind creating Indigenous Student Profiles and Minàdjimowin (Good News)!