Kerry Benjoe was one of the first students to take English at Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC).
Kerry went to high school at Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School. She chose to come to SIFC, where she could make up for her lack of life experience outside of residential school.
She started in 1990 and took Native Literature. But she also took classes at the University of Regina, where she was often the only Aboriginal student.
She didn’t do well in her first semester and left to have her first child. She returned in 1993, took it more seriously, and did a lot better in her classes. She left again for two years to have her second and third children and returned in 1999 to finish her last two semesters.
While Kerry was finishing her degree, she also took in four of her nieces and nephews.
During her struggles and efforts to finish school, she says she had great supports at the university.
“SIFC helped me become independent because I went from being a number in residential school to being my own person,” says Kerry.
She also had support from her English professors who wanted her to excel.
“The professors here, and the student counselors became somewhat of my surrogate family,” says Kerry. “They were my support system.”
Two people stood out for Kerry, Arlene Konrad and Jo-Ann Episkenew.
Arlene was her student counselor and “she was pretty much like a big sister,” says Kerry.
Jo-Ann was thrilled to work with Kerry because there were so few English majors. They had a lot of one-on-one time and formed a strong bond.
“If I didn’t have them I wouldn’t have finished as quickly as I did,” says Kerry, who graduated in 2000 with her Bachelor’s Degree in English and Indigenous Studies.
With her degrees in hand she got an internship at the Regina Leader-Post, and after a year of training she was hired as a full-time reporter.
She remains the only Aboriginal reporter in that newsroom, and in an average day she writes as many as five stories, covering everything from politics, municipal affairs, crime, and human interest stories.
Kerry says thanks to the staff at FNUniv, today she has a job she is passionate about.
“I guess you can say it’s kind of addicting,” said Kerry.