The Power of Persistence: A Story of Success and Resilience

Janelle Minoza, VIU Bachelor of Social Work student

Janelle Minoza, a third-year Bachelor of Social Work student, is inspiring others with her story.

January 13, 2020 - 11:00am

Janelle Minoza has overcome a number of obstacles standing in the way of her post-secondary education since becoming a student at Vancouver Island University last year.

Janelle Minoza is living proof that hard work and determination can help you achieve your dreams.

The third-year Bachelor of Social Work student at Vancouver Island University (VIU), from the Deh Gah Gotie Dene First Nations in Fort Providence, has not let anything stand in her way of getting the education she so deeply desires. Minoza got funding to attend VIU through the EleV learning partnership for Indigenous youth.

Funded by the Mastercard Foundation, EleV aims to boost the number of Indigenous youth accessing education and provide wraparound supports to help ensure their success. EleV scholarships provide full tuition, daycare, transportation, books, accommodation and living allowances as well as wraparound supports on campus, creating the stability needed for Minoza and her partner to leave their careers and nearly everything they owned to make the move to Vancouver Island so she could follow her educational dreams.

“We moved here with two suitcases, and the month before we moved, I found out my partner and I were expecting,” remembers the 33-year-old. “I was determined not to put my studies aside, but I wanted to make sure I had a clean, comfortable home with everything I needed for my baby.”

With that realization, Minoza got to work and applied for every scholarship she could find. One of the Indigenous Education Navigators connected with the EleV program, Tasha Brooks, emailed Minoza every scholarship that came across her desk. Keeping her GPA high enough to be eligible for awards was a major focus for Minoza last year, and she ended up receiving more than $10,000 in scholarships, awards and bursaries – enough to ensure she is comfortable while she studies.

“I see her as a role model for other students in terms of what can be done if you put in that extra legwork,” says Brooks. “Her determination is uncanny – I know whatever she faces, she will find a way through. I’m very confident in her abilities.”

The next hurdle was figuring out how to stay in school with a newborn baby. Minoza had her son in April 2019 – right in the middle of final report and exam season. With no family nearby to help – her partner is from Slovakia and does not have family in town either – she typed her final reports while nursing her son, and one of her professors allowed her to write the final exam in his office so that others wouldn’t be disturbed if her baby cried.

“It was really hard to balance it all – and he ended up coming with me to classes so I could keep going,” she remembers.

The courses she was taking at the time were the prerequisites she needed to get into the third year of the Social Work program.

“It’s challenging to give my assignments full attention when my baby is my priority, and all I want to do is embrace every moment with him,” adds Minoza.

VIU English Professor Dr. Nelson Gray says Minoza was a “shining star” in his public speaking class last summer – improving dramatically as the class progressed.

“She came in to the class as a rather shy student, and by the end of the course she was a force to be reckoned with, delivering presentations that engaged the entire class,” he says. “She is a charming, generous, intelligent student, and I am quite sure that anything she wants to achieve in life will be attainable.”

Becoming a social worker has always been the end goal for Minoza, but for many years she didn’t feel she was ready to go down that path. The inter-generational impacts of the Fort Providence Indian Residential School run deep in her community, with many struggling to break the cycle of addiction, violence and poverty. In high school, she lived with her principal and community health nurse when her family went through some difficult times.

“I’ve been on a healing journey. A lot of the stuff I’ve gone through is why I chose to pursue social work,” she explains. “When I look back, I see the effects of colonialism and how it negatively impacted my childhood and adolescent years. If it weren’t for my education, I would not have a clear understanding of this. I know what a lot of these children, youth and families are going through. I am a genuinely empathetic person who truly wants to help others and give back to my community.”

Despite the hardships and obstacles she has faced, Minoza doesn’t regret the sacrifices she has made to get here. 

“I know that my perseverance will benefit me now and in my future career,” she says.


MEDIA CONTACT:                         

Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Advisor, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6559 | C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Community Engagement | EleV | Indigenous | Social Work | Student Stories | Student Success

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