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Finding "home" at Chinook Lodge

A female student is standing in the entry way of the Chinook Lodge Resource Centre at SAIT

In high school, Brooke Aubichon loved biology and chemistry and knew she wanted to pursue a career in health care. Not entirely sure which direction she wanted to take, her decision narrowed when the school nurse set up a visit to one of the labs at the local hospital where she lived in Grande Prairie.

“It was all very “sciency,” with the beakers and test tubes. It was exactly what you think a scientist would do, and it piqued my interest.” From there she focused her efforts on becoming a medical lab technologist. She chose SAIT to start her journey with Academic Upgrading in order to meet the competitive requirements of the Medical Laboratory Technology (MLT) diploma program.

Seeking out community

As an extrovert, Aubichon made it a priority to familiarize herself with the people behind the resources and services available at SAIT, including Chinook Lodge Resource Centre. The Lodge is a place for Indigenous learners to gather, connect with peers and access a team of advisors, such as Chinook Lodge Coordinator Larry Gauthier.

“The Lodge was the first home I found at SAIT,” she says, “In my first semester, my classes didn’t start until 8 am and I would show up at 7 am and just sit in the Lodge and talk with Larry and the crew, and with any of the students that came in.”

Though Aubichon was an honours student in high school, one of her biggest challenges was adapting to the intensity of a post-secondary program. She also had to learn to let go of holding herself to the same standard.

“Coming to terms with the fact that there will be some things I’m not as good at and there will be some things that I’m really good at was definitely something I struggled with.”

Turning her struggle into strength, Aubichon leaned into her community including those at the Lodge and credits them with supporting her confidence and mental wellbeing when she needed it most.

“There was always someone to talk to and someone who was on your side no matter how your day went,” she says, “Having someone to cheer me up and cheer me on was really helpful during that time.”

Maintaining momentum

The energy from the social interactions Aubichon received from her classmates, instructors and other members of the SAIT community hit a major speed bump once the pandemic hit.

“I’m a social being and extrovert, so it was a little bit of a rough time for me at the beginning of the pandemic.”

Fortunately, she managed to find ways to stay connected, including attending online events, such as virtual talking circles with Elders, and playing online games and taking part in group chats with classmates until she was able to reunite with them during her practicum placement.

Though she won’t be crossing the stage to receive her diploma until Fall 2021, her time at SAIT is coming to a close and she’ll be writing her biggest and final exam, the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science certification at the end of June.

“Chinook Lodge is the thing I’ll miss the most about SAIT — the community at the Lodge and the events they put on. I never grew up around my culture, so to have a community to learn from and be supported by was instrumental to my personal and academic growth.” 

When it comes to a piece of advice she has for future Indigenous students at SAIT, she has one thing to say: use the resources.

“There are so many resources in place for us to succeed. Whether it be the Lodge or Lamb Learner Success Centre, there are so many ways for us to successful. Our tuition already pays for these services, so use them as much as you can.”


A home away from home

In addition to emotional, financial and spiritual support, the Chinook Lodge Resource Centre offers:

  • Teachings by Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers
  • Cultural and language opportunities
  • Private smudge room with traditional medicines
  • One-on-one advising: program, funding, housing and application support
  • Quiet study space with computers and internet/printing access
  • Celebrations and social gatherings
  • Professional networking and career services
  • Student leadership opportunities
  • Special guest Indigenous speaker series
  • One-on-one tutoring, academic skills workshops and success seminars

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