Michelle Baptiste


Learners give thanks at Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving around the corner, we spoke with three learners from diverse backgrounds to find out what this holiday means to them.

Indigenous learner gives thanks every day

“Every day is Thanksgiving,” says Michelle Baptiste (pictured above), “I wake up thankful. I give thanks to be here on Earth, to be able to help another person.”

Michelle understands that some Indigenous people don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because of its association with colonialism, but she does. Michelle traditionally has dinner with her four children, her partner and her sister. From her perspective, Thanksgiving is about forgiveness, too.

“Forgiveness is a big part of reconciliation,” she says. “It helps us create bonds with other people. I can’t live in a world of anger and hate. I need peace and love.”

“I celebrate as an Indigenous person because I’m grateful for my education, my family, and my friends. I’m very thankful for Bow Valley College. I made really great friends here. And I’m really thankful to the donors of the awards I received. Without them I would not have this opportunity to get an education.”

After graduating from Bow Valley College as a Health Care Aide in 2000, Michelle spent 18 years working in her field. She’s returned to Bow Valley College to study Addiction Studies – Aboriginal Focus, taking Career Pathways before she begins the program in 2019.

She’s also become connected with her Indigenous heritage through Bow Valley College’s Iniikokaan Centre, going on sage-gathering trips and learning from the Elders.

“I feel that I’m part of the Indigenous world now. I have an extra piece of life, I’ve come full circle.” she says. “Iniikokaan Centre is so positive and having positivity around me makes a big difference to my life. The Elders have also made a big difference in my life. I am grateful for that.”



New Canadian thankful for warmth and acceptance at Bow Valley College

Rizvi Sawkiratoon has much to be thankful for. The 2018 graduate of the Practical Nurse Diploma program, just got a job in her field and has passed her Canadian citizenship test.

“I am thankful for so many things,” she says. “I’m thankful for my life, the love of my family, the beautiful seasons, and for the person I am.”

Rizvi explains that although she hasn’t celebrated a real Canadian Thanksgiving since arriving in Calgary three years ago, she understands the concept of a harvest festival because in Bangladesh they celebrate Noboanno at the end of the rice harvest. “We eat rice dishes and cakes, sing and dance and pray,” she says. “It is the happiest time for me when the family goes to my grandparents’ farm, especially when the harvest is good.”

Rizvi says Bow Valley College is among the things she’s grateful for. She remembers the warmth and acceptance she felt the first time she came here.

“I’m thankful to Bow Valley College for the beautiful friends I’ve met here and the connections I’ve made,” she says. “And the money the donors give us is a blessing. When I’m earning money, I’d like to do that myself, to make even one person happy and see the big smile on their face.”


Learner expresses gratitude for many things in many ways

Dillon Chan moved to Calgary from Hong Kong when he was 12.

“Although Thanksgiving was a foreign concept, my family celebrated it because we found it was rewarding to have family time together,” Dillon explains. “We go for a walk in the park and have simple, traditional Chinese cuisine.”

For Dillon, in his second year of his Business Administration Diploma – Accounting, Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful, and to reflect on how much he has accomplished with the help of his friends and family. That includes his peers and instructors at Bow Valley College.

 “The instructors are amazing,” he says. “They support you all the way in your professional and personal growth.” He is also extremely grateful for all of the donors.

“Their contributions have been so important in my education journey. It would have been way harder without their support” he says. “Seeing the donors do great things in the community is inspiring. When I get to that level in the future, I will do the same. 

Dillon is thankful for his experiences as a peer tutor in the Chiu School of Business, where he was able to help one learner stay in school, by being encouraging and spending extra time with her. He also volunteers at a seniors’ home and says he’s grateful that he can be a companion to the residents when their families aren’t able to see them.

Dillon says he is very traditional in how he often expresses his thanks. “I write a thank you card. I believe it’s those little things that count.”


Writer: Anne Georg

Photographer: Anne Georg

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