By Judy Bird 

Muriel Brazeau knew she had to do more than just tell her grandchildren to finish grade 12, so she set an example, and finished Grade 12.

In early June, Brazeau, a member of Key First Nation, graduated from Parkland College in Yorkton, and earned her Grade 12 diploma.

“I always wanted to have my diploma of Grade 12 so I just decided to go back and get it,” said Brazeau.

As a child, she finished Grade 8 in Norquay school, then quit and went to work.

“I’ve held many jobs in my life, I’ve started out growing sugar beets in Alberta. From there I went to Edmonton and I was a housekeeper, cleaning other people’s houses. I took a bit of upgrading there and then I moved back to Saskatchewan. Then I got my bookkeeping in Regina at the Wascana Institute. I worked in Regina as a cook, a cook’s helper, dishwasher, waitress, cleaned hotels in housekeeping,” she said.

Though she was working and earning a living, she still sought training courses to improve her opportunities.

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“Education is very important,” Brazeau said. “I got my GED about 37-38 years ago. I’ve got a lot of experience, but I noticed that after I got certificates or diplomas then my wage went higher.”

She also took courses in Early Childhood Education and Teacher’s Aide. She used these skills working in the day care on Key First Nation on and off for 15 years.

Some of her grandchildren graduated Grade 12, but others, she said, “went the old grandma route and got GED, even though I tried to tell them, ‘no, get your 12.’ I thought I’ll go back and show them you can get it, it’s never too late.”

She was in school with two of her grandchildren taking grade 12. The transition of going back to school was not difficult, but completing the program was a challenge.

“I understand now why a lot of them leave school. I’ve noticed native children, when they learn something, they learn really fast. Then they get bored because they keep going over the same thing over and over. I think that’s why a lot of native children leave school. They already know it, why do you have to keep teaching the same thing?”

She was even tempted herself to quit.

“Last semester, I was telling my granddaughter, ‘oh I’m just going to quit’. She said ‘no grandma, don’t. You’re not a quitter!’”

Her advice to others is simple: get your Grade 12, and take it one step at a time.

“Try and get your grade 12, even if you do what I did, start off taking one course at a time and then increase. I had lots of time because I was retired,” she said.

“Get all the education you can, even if you find it boring, take something else, have a variety. Make it interesting for yourself. Read everything you can get your hands on.”

Now that she’s earned her Grade 12 diploma, what’s next for this trail-blazing grandma? University, of course.

“I’ve registered for university through the extension program at Parkland College in Yorkton. I don’t know what I will take yet, maybe psychology, or linguistics, maybe native studies,” she said.

 

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