HERstory | Autumn Quenville

Welder and Mechanical Engineering

Boozhoo,

My name is Autumn Quenville. I am an Indigenous woman from Whitesand First Nation; located three hours north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. I am currently attending Confederation College in the Mechanical Engineering Technician program [2018-2020]. I recently graduated from the Welding Techniques program [2017-2018] with a Canadian Welding Bureau ticket for Shielded Metal Arc Welding. Attending these programs so far from home, created a lot of opportunities for me; not only as a woman, but also as an Indigenous woman. I was able to pursue dreams that I never thought that I could conquer, especially growing up in a remote First Nation community.

In 2013, I had to move from my home community and travel to the city of Thunder Bay in order to receive a higher education. There was a feeling of displacement, I was a young girl who moved away from her friends and family to a city with different cultures. I had to live in a boarding home and throughout my high school experience, I had to switch boarding home due to either differences or conveniences. For those four years of high school, I had no choice but to grow up and be independent. But during my transition to a young girl to a mature young woman, I had great opportunities to learn.

I was not the typical little girl that would play with dolls and make-up. I grew up with a handy man of a father and two brothers. I always had an interest in hands-on activities but most of the time I was not allowed to participate in whatever projects my dad and brothers had going on in the garage. I think being neglected from the hobbies I wanted to do the most sparked my interest in wanting to pursue manufacturing. As soon as I went into Grade 9, I chose to take a welding course; ever since then, I have been in love being able to work with my hands. Although the excitement helped me get to where I am today, there were many barriers that I had to work through. One of the barriers that I had to work through was having anxiety in the classroom. Majority of the time, I was the only female in the classroom that took an interest in this type of field. Even today, there is a lot of pressure of not only being a woman, but also an Indigenous woman working in a man dominated field. Often times, it feels like society is just waiting for people like me to fall and fail.

This past summer (2019), I had the opportunity to work as a millwright at Resolute which was located in Thunder Bay. Again, there was very few women who worked there. The first few days were a bit nerve wrecking, but I was able to work through those barriers and move forward. This job opportunity was a co-op. Confederation College gives students the opportunity to have a co-op during the summer in their field of study. Working as a millwright definitely helped me open up my eyes as to what I want to do when I complete my college program. With the love of hands on work and the feeling I get when I finish fixing a piece of machinery that works good as new, I am dedicated to becoming a red seal millwright and to setting a good example for the young Indigenous women from my hometown and around. I am so appreciative for the love and support that I received from my high school teachers and now college professors for helping me pursue my dreams. There was an underlying confidence that I never thought I had, which now I am able to take advantage of to take be able to take risks.

I believe this scholarship can benefit myself in so many ways such as educationally, personally, and financially. Although I identify as Indigenous, a few years ago the Indigenous and Northern Affairs of Canada did not think the same. The transition from high school straight to post-secondary was very challenging. My community did not recognize me as an Indigenous youth, so I had to pay my own way through college with the help of a third party – Ontario Student Assistance Program. And now with the change of provincial government, OSAP will be challenging to pay back in the next few years. Fortunately, I was able to gain status and receive help from my home community to pay for college in 2018. It was a big help but being in school full-time and working only part-time, it can be very holistically challenging. I think this scholarship can help me educationally by helping me focus more on my schooling and reduce to stress of my financial concerns. With this scholarship, I am able to gain great aspects such as finding more time to study and possibly working with a tutor which can mean better grades and give me a chance to charge my holistic being back to (or almost to) 100%. Another benefit of this scholarship is being worry-free of what I can do on my free time It will give me a chance to be selfish and sometime selfishness is all what a 19-year-old needs.

Often times there is this big expectation that young adults are supposed to have everything together. Example being: going to school full-time, having a decent paid job, keeping up with home and utility bills, maintaining a social life and keeping up with self-care. This is an expectation that I cannot uphold, and it is exhausting. The constant anxiety, stress, and depression that us students carry is unwelcoming and unfamiliar because it all comes at once. It is one of the biggest obstacles that many of us face, especially myself. If I receive this scholarship, I know that I will put it to good use. The financial stability will help me determine my short-term goals of finishing school and pursuing my dreams beyond graduation.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I can be contacted via phone or email if you wish to forward any questions.

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