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First Nations student wins prestigious national scholarship

Jackie Hamill speaks at major leadership conference in Montreal
Jackie Hamill, left, talks with Mayor Patricia Heintzman at a World Café event at Howe Sound Secondary last week. Hamill has received a national scholarship.

Howe Sound Secondary student Jackie Hamill’s plan after she finishes her senior year is to study business and eventually go into accounting.

Recently, her career path got off to an early start when she was chosen as one of four young First Nations students to attend a major conference of business and First Nations leaders in Montreal in mid-February because of a scholarship essay she had submitted.

Hamill was at the AFOA 16th National Conference, where she delivered a speech to the 1,000 delegates and had a chance to meet First Nations leaders involved in finance, business and accounting, including five former Assembly of First Nations national chiefs.

She was one of four students awarded the PotashCorp Aboriginal Youth Financial Management Awards.

Hamill admits she was a bit intimidated at having to get up and speak in front of such a large crowd, especially as one of a small number of young people there.

“It was my essay that I submitted,” she said. “It actually ended up going really well…. I felt they were really welcoming.”

AFOA Canada was formerly known as the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada and was founded as a not-for-profit association in 1999, with the aim of helping aboriginal people manage and govern communities and organizations. 

The event gave Hamill and the other scholarship winners time to network with leaders in business and government. “I got a lot of business cards,” she said. “They’re already in the career I want to be in.” She submitted her essay last fall after hearing about the scholarship. “My mom’s colleague emailed me about it. That’s how 

I heard,” she said. “I’d brainstorm and then I’d plan out what I wanted to do.”

She worked on revisions and enlisted the help of her mother and others, estimating she spent about 10 hours on the piece before submitting it.

In the essay, she talked about her love of mathematics and accounting, her ties to Hazelton where she was born, her life in Squamish and her First Nations heritage.

She also discussed her leadership and volunteer activities, what she thinks it takes to be a strong leader and the importance of education. 

“Leaders are always in the spotlight, so they must set an example for the team and future leaders,” she wrote. “Potential leaders look up to these role models to develop their skills. They need to include everyone in their processes and hear other points of views.”

Hamill heard shortly after the Christmas break that she was one of four students from across the country to receive the scholarship worth up to $5,000 for post-secondary education.

Currently, she is in Grade 12 and is an aboriginal leadership student at Howe Sound Secondary. 


In the fall, she is planning to attend university to begin her studies. So far, she has applied to University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, but after having a tour of McGill as part of her AFOA visit, she is also sending the Montreal university an application. 

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