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Hard work pays off in a big way for NWCC grad

HAZELTON Northwest Community College (NWCC) graduate Martha Wilson has authored a story almost as inspirational as she is and it started with a simple email last year advising her of a scholarship opportunity. Wilson, a mother and grandmother, recently found out she was selected as a 2011 Upper-Year W. Garfield Weston Scholar, an award with a value of $25,000! Award winners get a tuition waiver from the college they attend, a grant of $8,000 towards their living expenses, and access to a mentorship program, summer funding and a leadership conference in Toronto. The award will allow Wilson to pursue her career goal of becoming a clinical psychologist. The award caps an eventful two years for Wilson, who graduated with two full-time program credentials this spring an Associate Degree in Arts and a Social Service Worker diploma, earned at NWCC Terrace Campus. A proud Gitxsan member of the Wolf (Laxgibuu) Clan belonging to House of Niik'yap, Wilson plans to continue at NWCC this fall, working on credits shell need to eventually transfer to a Bachelor program at UNBC in Prince George. She says shes grateful for the help she received at the College when she suffered a stroke in December 2008. Wilson emerged from the health setback more determined than ever to achieve goals she had set for herself. I set a goal for myself: nothing less than graduating with honours was acceptable, said Wilson. The results gave me a lot of validation that if you really want something, its never too late. But the foundation for Wilsons big scholarship was built before she returned to school. She has worked in the social service field for 25 years, she owns her own consulting business in which she facilitates workshops on healing, conscious parenting and gives one-on-one counselling, and she has volunteered her time with Highway of Tears advocacy, the Gitxsan Health Society and Gitanmaax interagency for youth at risk. The turning point for Wilsons community work came when her cousin became a Highway of Tears victim. Ramona Wilson went missing from Smithers in 1994 and her remains were found a year later near the Bulkley Valley town. It was an issue really dear to my heart, says Wilson, who accompanied her aunt on a 2006 walk from Smithers to Prince George to bring awareness to the growing list of unsolved murders on Hwy16. To get involved with the Highway of Tears, Gitxsan Health and youth is something natural for me. If somebody needs help, you step up you dont do it because you have to, you do it because you want to. In addition to academic achievement, the Garfield Weston Foundation judges award finalists in three areas: community service, leadership and character and integrity, attributes Wilson displays in spades. The award interview process was intensive with one phone interview and five in-person interviews in Toronto. As part of the latter, Wilson had to present two hypothetical summer projects one domestic and one abroad and she drew on her passion for issues relating to First Nations women, youth, health and poverty. Wilson says she still cant quite believe the scope of her award, which is the biggest but certainly not the only one shes recently earned. She is also the recipient of two NWCC awards, the Patti Barnes Humanitarian Award ($2,000 ) and the Northern Institute for Resource Studies Scholarship ($500), among others. Its kind of embarrassing, said Wilson of her successes. I think living in the North, you have to create what you have, you have to be resourceful. NWCC President, Dr. Denise Henning is a big believer in the doors of opportunity that open through education and she says Wilsons story is a perfect example. Northwest Community College is truly a better place for having a student and person the calibre of Martha Wilson, said Dr. Henning. Hers is a story that anyone could draw inspiration from and we wish her every success in pursuing her career goals.

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