Brianda Robillard, student from Black Lake, shared her story at the Athabasca Student Supper on December 15, 2016.

Always Accomplish What You Started

March 2, 2017 in People
Explorer: Spring 2017

Facing your fears is incredibly hard. Doing so in front of a crowd of 200 or so of your family and friends requires a special kind of courage.

So you have to admire Brianda Robilliard, a young student from Black Lake who, at the Athabasca Student Supper in December, faced her fears about public speaking by sharing her very personal journey about the challenges she faces trying to achieve an education, which include the fear and loneliness students experience when they move away from their home community. “I was excited and scared at the same time, because I knew it would be hard for me to move away from family and relatives,” says Brianda. “As the days

were getting closer to move, I didn’t want to go, because I thought about my family and I didn’t want to be alone as well. But I knew my family was proud of me for what I’d gotten myself into.”

It is a story that she thought others from the region who were also trying to achieve a greater education could relate to, and her goal was to provide a message of hope and encouragement, while also facing a life-long fear of public speaking. “Always accomplish what you started,” Brianda concluded in her speech to the crowd, who supported and encouraged her through their thunderous applause.

Brianda’s personal challenges in receiving an education trace back to the 8th grade, when Brianda needed to go to work to help support her mother financially. At just 14 years old, Brianda went to work as a cashier at the Northern Store. “While I was working there, I met a lot of people, and I earned a little, but it was lots for me, because I was just fourteen and a half years old,” says Brianda. “I was so happy that I received my first cheque, which was $120.”

At a young age, Brianda had to learn how to balance working long hours and life – all while trying to fit in at high school. “My first year in high school, kids were teasing me, calling me names because I was working and supporting my mother with her financial needs,” she says. “I felt left out in any activities because of work. I was attending high school five times a week, 8am to 4pm. Then evening shifts five times a week, 4pm to 6pm, and then most nights, I worked nights at the café from 7pm to midnight.”

The gruelling schedule eventually took its toll on the young teenager, and Brianda suffered the effects of stress. “I was overworking myself, and it was my first time experiencing it.” She eventually made the tough decision to quit her night job at the café. “I wanted to make time for my family and friends. I felt so lonely working with that many hours, and I was just a teenager trying to get extra money.”

After Brianda graduated from Grade 12, she didn’t know what to do with herself. She continued working and supporting her mother, eventually registering in a program called the Indigenous Access Transition Education Certificate program. This program led Brianda to realize where her interests were, and she applied for an Electrician-Applied Certificate at SaskPolytech and a summer job at McLean Lake. “It was good experience to work at the mine site, week in/week out, facing my challenges at times, and learning every day,” she says. “While working at the mine, I got an acceptance letter from SaskPolytech.” Despite having fears and doubts about moving away from her family, Brianda made the decision to enrol and is now in her first year working towards becoming a journeyperson electrician.

Hats off to you, Brianda, and all of you who face challenges while trying to achieve a better education and achieve your dreams. We at Athabasca Basin Development and all of our investments salute you, during days like the annual Athabasca Student Supper and all year long. Because to us, “Building a future through investment” also means building a future by investing in yourself.