Belinda Sayeau, Fanshawe's Fall 2010 Noteworthy Graduate
Now that she's a Fanshawe College graduate, Belinda Sayeau is ready to focus on building bridges.
Sayeau is an Anishinaabe woman who grew up in Red Lake, Ontario, and is a member of the Shoal Lake #40 First Nation, where her birth mother is from, and the Eagle Lake First Nation where her birth father is from. "All three of those places have made me who I am."
She came to Fanshawe originally to work part-time in Financial Services, and later worked in Purchasing & Accounts Payable and Awards & Scholarships. On Thursday, November 4, 2010, she graduated from Fanshawe's Business program.
"During the first few months [of part-time work at Fanshawe] I realized that I would like to return to school. Seeing the success of mature students while working here gave me confidence. I received a lot of support as well from co-workers who believed in me, such as Rebecca Campbell and Danielle Villeneuve," says Sayeau. "I'd like to acknowledge the support of all of my previous co-workers and managers, in particular Corinne Campbell, who I worked for the majority of time that I was in school."
"I can also attribute some of my success as a student to the resources that were available to
me at the First Nations Centre, such as the computer lab and student lounge.
As students those resources are
so valuable, particularly as the school has gotten so busy with increased enrolment. We are lucky as
students to have up-to-date computer equipment available to us."
Belinda Sayeau, right, with Donna Smith-Sutherland, Supervisor of Fanshawe's First Nations Centre.
"I would like to say that we as students and employees are very fortunate to attend a school like Fanshawe. We have great services, equipment and modern and beautiful grounds. I walked around in awe when I first started working here, saying 'Thanks' a lot. I continue to do so."
Outside of Fanshawe, Sayeau credits her partner Will Hawkes and daughter Amanda Sayeau for their support, as well as "the great community of Shoal Lake #40." She also credits her parents with a large role in her achievements, saying, "They provided me with a stable home life, a loving supportive family, and instilled in me a strong sense of service and an entrepreneurial spirit."
Recognizing the challenges facing Aboriginal students from small communities when they move to a large college, she has helped mentor and tutor other Aboriginal students. In addition to working part-time during most of her program, Sayeau also volunteered with the First Nations Student Association. During her first year, she was co-treasurer, and in her second year, she served as external co-chair of the executive.
She also tutored several students, volunteered to speak to mature students, and helped at awards ceremonies with the Development office. "One of the personal joys that I experienced was assisting a disabled student," she says. "This started as a job and ended in a friendship."
Sayeau has also spoken at conferences on the issues facing mature students who go to college, and has helped inspire others to enrol in higher education.
She is currently employed as Customer Service Representative at Fanshawe's First Nations Centre, where she works with Indigenous students - a role she's well suited for, given her unique cultural experience and history with the Centre.
"I feel it's my place to work toward bringing the Aboriginal and non-Native communities at Fanshawe together because I've always walked both paths," says Sayeau, who was adopted outside of her culture and often considers herself a 'bridge.'
"Belinda Sayeau represents what is possible for Aboriginal students accessing resources and services within the First Nations Centre at Fanshawe College," says Donna Smith-Sutherland, Supervisor of the First Nations Centre. "Acknowledging and honouring the Aboriginal worldview within our educational institution has contributed to the success of Aboriginal students."
"We are proud of Belinda and her exemplary accomplishments," Smith-Sutherland says. "She is a role model for all students. I know I'll look back ten years from now and will continue to see the impact that she has had both within the Centre and the College community."
Later this month, Belinda will be recognized with the prestigious 2010 Colleges Ontario Award for student achievement.