When Tierra Henhawk completed high school, she found herself at a crossroads. She knew she wanted to further her education, but felt it was not the right time in her personal life. She selflessly took on the responsibility of being the leader of her household, which made moving away for post-secondary a challenge. Although she had intentions of continuing her education, her main priority was to earn a reliable income to support not only herself but her family as well. This landed her a position with a private company in the tobacco industry where she stayed for three years. She found herself sick of the stagnant job and craved something more fulfilling in which she could give back to the Six Nations community.
“I’ve always wanted to give back to my community. That was always my thing even when I was young my dream was to be a doctor so I could come back to my community and take care of people.”
After seeing some advertisements on social media and speaking with a friend who used GREAT services in the past, Tierra felt encouraged and reached out to complete her intake. She applied for funding from GREAT to enroll in the Employment Readiness Program with the Ogwehoweh Skills and Trades Training Centre (OSTTC). In the Employment Readiness Program, she was able to complete self-assessments with her instructor to help pinpoint what industry she wanted to pursue.
“I needed a new direction because I wasn’t sure where to start. I wasn’t ready to jump into college or university but still wanted to be able to upgrade so that’s where I thought GREAT was the perfect fit.”
The self-assessments helped Tierra identify that she wanted to go into the tourism industry. She knew she had a strong passion for educating others on Haudenosaunee culture, history, and traditions. Unfortunately for Tierra, she enrolled in the program prior to COVID-19. This forced her to navigate through the new normal while trying to balance her schooling and personal life throughout the pandemic. Despite these obstacles, she persevered and was one of the only students to complete the course.
“About halfway through there was a rough patch where I started second-guessing myself and questioning whether I really wanted to be there. Talking with my ETC and feeling her support really helped keep me focused and reminded me that yes I can do this.”
Tierra is now employed full-time as a Cultural Interpreter at the OSTTC Longhouse Project where she provides First Nations education and resources to the community and surrounding areas. She has found passion in her work and looks forward to continuing to educate the surrounding community about First Nations history, culture, and traditions. In the future, she hopes to complete a post-secondary education to advance her career in the tourism industry.
“Ever since coming here, I’ve realized that GREAT has gotten me started. I now feel like I know that I want to go to college, and I want to get a degree so that I can back my name up and create a long-term career for myself.”
When asked what advice she has for those on the fence about continuing their education Tierra stated,
“The help is there for you, but you have to want to put in the work to get to where you need to be. For me, that was my biggest issue. It was always myself stopping me. You must take the jump. The help is there but you have to want it.”