For Jason George and Lori Kim George, graduating with their Honors Specialization in First Nations Studies is not only a personal success, but is part of their mission to be examples to their family and their communities.
Jason is a member of the Stoney Point First Nation, and Lori is a member of the Onedia Nation of the Thames.
While the couple initially met in high school 21 years ago, neither completed their diploma at that time. Many years later, and with two adult daughters, Jason and Lori wanted to set an example for them.
The couple returned to school, attending the G.A. Wheable Adult, Alternative and Continuing Education Centre, and earned their high school diploma within a year. Lori became the person to complete the most credits within one year. Teachers and support workers at the school encouraged the Georges to attend university, something they had not given much thought to.
“We really doubted we could do it,” said Jason. “We were told as kids, that being Indigenous, we couldn’t get into university, let alone excel.”
During their first year, Lori’s mother passed away. While some suggested she take a break from school, Lori was more determined. She had promised her mother she wouldn’t quit. Despite the loss of family members and other personal challenges, the couple did excel, including involvement in the First Nations Student Association and challenging the university to better support Indigenous students.
Along with his honors degree, Jason completed a minor in Criminology. He was inspired to do this due to his personal experience with the criminal justice system.
“I was dragged through the system as a teenager, and I didn’t feel I had the support,” he said. He hopes to help counsel other Indigenous people “to help our people get back to a healthy place.”
“We could have dropped out multiple times,” said Lori, “Whatever we faced was temporary, but education is forever.”
“We want people to see it is not a matter of how to do it, but making up your mind to do it,” said Jason.
The Georges credit the staff in the First Nations Studies program, and Indigenous Services for providing support to help them through the program.
A few weeks before graduating, the couple got married, allowing them be called up and cross the stage together. Jason and Lori’s daughters have both completed high school, and are pursing post-secondary education. For both Jason and Lori, their daughters are the first people in their family to complete high school on time.
“We want to get out of a negative cycle, and turn it into a positive cycle of education,” said Lori.
The pair is not done with their own education. Lori is considering going to law school and Jason is considering completing a Master’s degree.
“We’ll be back” said Lori.