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Resiliency paved the way through adversity

Graduate looks towards the stage at convocation
These SAIT valedictorians travelled unique paths towards bright futures

On Tuesday, Oct. 25, SAIT's Fall 2022 valedictorians crossed the stage. As they look forward to what’s next, we’re looking back on their road to SAIT — and what got them through the challenges of being a student during a global pandemic.

Onyie Ekene-Obi

Journalism, School of Business

Valedictorian Onyie Ekene-Obi

Photo by Anna Burns

After working as a broadcast regulator in Nigeria, Onyie Ekene-Obi decided to enroll in the SAIT Journalism program and relocate her family to Calgary. She spent her first year learning virtually while balancing a full-time job, two children, different time zones and dropped internet connections.

But all of that, plus the coldest winter of her life, didn’t chill her enthusiasm for her new path.

“I landed in Edmonton in minus 40. That first experience when we opened the airport doors, it was freezing and my kids were screaming. It’s not the kind of weather you can explain to people. You have to experience it to be able to truly understand.

“But I’ll never forget when my friend came to pick us up at the airport. She was like, ‘are you ready?’ And I was like, ‘I’ve been ready my whole life for this!’”

Even with all her optimism, there were times when the balance of school, work and her kids wobbled.

“Sometimes I felt like I wasn’t enough, and it was overwhelming.”

When struggling with thoughts of imposter syndrome, she wondered whether coming to Canada was the right decision, but her family kept her motivated to move forward.

“I wanted a better future for myself and my kids — one full of opportunity. I had to do this for them.”

SAIT instructors lead with care

During a conversation with an instructor, Onyie shared she was feeling overwhelmed at times and it was suggested she take advantage of the counselling available to SAIT students. She was grateful to have a safe space to talk things through and vent away from home.

“My instructors were always interested in your success and wanted to know how they could help you grow. It wasn't just about the time — it was about going above and beyond to make sure you understood and knew what you were doing.

 “They are incredible human beings. In a world where it's hard to see people with humanity, it's refreshing to see that people believed in me more than I believed in myself. It's not just any instructor or just any person — it's someone who is concerned about your growth.”

What’s next?

“There's a better future in front of me, and where I am right now is where I wanted to be for the longest time. I see a better future, and that puts a smile on my face and gives me a bit of relief.

“I have been job hunting and, surprisingly, I got an interview because I posted on LinkedIn about being chosen as valedictorian! I'm searching for a communications job and freelancing. I'm hoping to use my photography to tell stories and my talent to impact other people — and to keep growing as a human being and be the best version of myself.

“I don't know what the future holds. I don't know what tomorrow brings, but I'm certain the future is very bright.”

Riley Nimchuk

Medical Radiologic Technology, School of Health and Public Safety

in-convocation-valedictorian-riley-nimchuk-300x300.jpgWith a decade working in one industry under her belt, Riley Nimchuk was interested in exploring a new chapter in her life. She was looking for a challenge and had a keen interest in furthering her education after completing a change management certification.

“I checked out the SAIT website and looked at all of the programs they offered. From there, I narrowed it down to the School of Public Health and Safety. I knew I wanted a career that involved client or patient care after working in customer service.

“Going to Open House I had my sights set on ultrasound and x-ray. The fact they were both two-year programs, had hands-on practical experience and great starting salaries, really appealed to me. The student presenters spoke highly about the programs and I was able to get more information on the requirements.”

Riley registered to upgrade a few necessary courses which helped get her back into the swing of things after a 10-year hiatus from school. She worked full time while attending evening and online classes, and job shadowed in both fields — Diagnostic Medical Sonography and Medical Radiologic Technology (MRT) — to solidify her decision to make a career change.

Once she began the MRT program, the majority of learning was online with the exception of an in-person lab a couple times a week. While it was initially a challenge to bond with classmates, the students created a Facebook group chat to connect with and support one another.

“To be honest, I thrived online. I like to learn at my own pace to ensure I understand the material, so having access to recorded lectures allowed me to go back and seek clarity if I needed. The instructors were approachable and responded quickly to emails or set up a Teams meeting if we had questions. I also saved time and money not commuting every day.”

A lifelong learner

“My SAIT education was an investment in my future and myself. I’m trying to create bigger and better things and this was the first step.

“I feel that our ability to learn should be insatiable. There is so much out there to know and do, and I feel like I've only skimmed the surface. Each time I invest in further education, I learn more about myself and what I’m capable of if I set my mind to something.”

One of her major learnings from this experience was the need to advocate for and invest in yourself.

“Ask for help when you need it, give yourself grace when you make a mistake and take a moment to celebrate in your successes!”

Riley is now working at South Health Campus and EFW Radiology in Calgary.

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