Kelsey Starblanket believes in the role model effect.
That’s why when he wanted to attend university, the First Nations University of Canada was the clear choice.
In 2002, Kelsey graduated with a Bachelor of Administration alongside many other Indigenous students.
“Classes were smaller, you knew the professors,” Kelsey says. “Profs understood your situation; you were a person with real life issues. No pressure if there is a family tragedy.”
He remembers that staff had good relationships with students, like Student Counsellor, Arlene Konrad, who ‘knew everybody.’
However, he says one of the biggest draws were the Elders. When Kelsey was a student, he says the late Elder Isadore Pelletier, who passed away in 2011, helped him a lot.
“I was happy when he came to work at the school cause it was just like having him here on a daily basis,” says Kelsey. “That kind of made me feel secure, made me feel like one of my relatives is here. Somebody that knows me knows where I’m from back home. We had a special kind of connection.”
Kelsey also made a lot of friends in his time on campus.
“I’ve had a friend that I met here and he’s still my friend today. Even though we don’t see each other that much we’re still [like] brothers,” explains Kelsey.
These days, Kelsey enjoys introduces his students to the University.
“It makes me feel proud these young people are following in my footsteps,” says Kelsey.
Today, Kelsey Starblanket works with Prairie Valley School Division, helping kids stay in school.
“Kids have lost their way, caught up in technology,” says Kelsey. “They rely on that, therefore they’re not cracking the books. They’re not getting the gift of gab so to speak. They don’t know how to express themselves.”
Using sacred teachings like the medicine wheel, Kelsey tries to change that and help his students reconnect with Indigenous culture.
“You have to live your life in balance, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically. It’s easy to make your life hard, but it’s hard to make your life easy” he says.
Doing this, Kelsey is sharing the skills his mentors in university also used to help him succeed.