Northern Lights College celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, inviting a panel of local women to speak about their personal leadership experiences.
Helen Knott, the newly named interim director of Indigenous Education at the college, hosted the virtual panel, and was accompanied by guests Taylor Behn-Tsakoza, Sweetzelle Arago, and Kristal Echano.
Behn-Tsakoza, a member of the Fort Nelson First Nation, was the the first in her family to pursue university but says she felt pressure to live a traditional life rather than pursuing higher education. She currently co-chairs the National Youth Council for the Assembly of First Nations, and was among 13 First Nation delegates selected to travel to Vatican City to discuss reconciliation with Pope Francis.
“Growing up, I still felt I was stuck in that box that society was trying to put me in, whether it was because I was a woman or was indigenous, or came from the North,” said Behn-Tsakoza. “It was the women in my life who kept saying ‘No, you’re much more than that’ and they encouraged me to break through that box.”
Arago hails from the Philippines and added another perspective the dialogue. She’s a second-year post-graduate business administration student at the college and currently serves as the Dawson Creek campus' student association’s vice president.
“There are always bumps on the road to success, but it’s how we rise again to serve other people that make us incredible leaders,” said Arago. “As a woman, it’s important to believe in ourselves and pursue leadership positions, because we are capable of success by persisting through leadership challenges.”
From a young age, Arago says she always had a passion for numbers and mathematics, and became the youngest and first female president of her high-school math club.
“My passion is to be of service to other people, and it’s still there,” she said.
Echano is also from the Philippines, working there as a dentist for nine years before she came to Canada. She is now enrolled in the professional chef program, in addition to being the student association president.
“Moving to Canada isn’t easy, because you need to adjust for the weather, culture, living away from your loved ones is the hardest decision that I’ve made in my entire life,” she said. “But now I’m walking towards my dream to be a professional cook in Canada.”
“Looking after people makes my heart happy,” Echano added. “We’ve been doing a lot of family meals, getting together at a long table, sharing our thoughts and experience, and also our leadership skills.”
Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at email@example.com