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The right fit

A woman in glasses smiles while looking off to the right of the image. She is wearing a maroon, button up sweater, a black and white striped t-shirt and a beaded necklace. He hair is in a braid. In the background, two teepee frames can be seen.
A community leader and graduate of the Office Administration program, Karina Matthews-Denny is Office Administrator for Senator Dan Christmas in Membertou.

Karina Matthews-Denny helped build the community she lives and works in – literally.

As a former student and graduate from the Carpentry program at NSCC in 2001, Karina has worked at many of the new buildings that now welcome residents and visitors to her community of Membertou First Nation. However, in her mid-40s, the mother of six found the physical aspect of the job was taking its toll.

“I decided to go back to school to update my office skills,” she explains. “I volunteer with many groups in the community and I thought the Office Administration program would help my volunteer work and open new career opportunities.”

Thanks to my NSCC education, I have a career that helps me to get more involved and I want to continue my growth as an advocate for Indigenous and underrepresented groups just as he has done.

Karina Matthews-Denny

Back to the classroom

She enrolled at the Marconi Campus, but as a mature student and a single mother, obtaining her diploma wasn’t without hurdles. In fact, she was almost forced to withdraw from her program due to a family-related crisis at the start of her second semester.

“That was a very difficult time for me. I had missed two weeks of classes and I thought I might have to leave school, but a fellow Mi’kmaq student encouraged me to find the strength to stay,” she says. “When I returned, it felt like my classmates and instructors were waiting for me. They had a list of what I missed and helped me catch up and get through it. It really felt like a community.”

Karina persevered and became an active member of her student community. She excelled in her studies and even shared her Mi’kmaw heritage by drumming at the Marconi Campus Mawio’mi. Following her graduation in June 2018, Karina was the successful candidate for the position of Administrative Support Assistant for Senator Dan Christmas’s new office in Membertou.

Community leadership

“I wanted to hire someone who not only had the necessary office skills, but who was fluent in Mi’kmaw and who would make people coming to the office feel welcomed. Karina does that,” explains Senator Christmas. “She has a passion for working with Mi’kmaq people and trying to solve issues. She brings a wealth of life experience and education and she’s compassionate and empathetic to everyone. She’s absolutely a leader in her own right.”

Karina demonstrates her leadership skills as president of the Membertou Native Women’s Group and volunteers with organizations throughout her community. Equipped with her recent NSCC education and a new rewarding career, she’s showing no signs of slowing down.

“Senator Christmas is and has been an inspiration. He’s the first-ever Mi’kmaq Senator and I’m very humbled to be a part of his success story,” says Karina. “Thanks to my NSCC education, I have a career that helps me to get more involved and I want to continue my growth as an advocate for Indigenous and underrepresented groups just as he has done.”

Fast Fact

Having previously graduated from Carpentry at NSCC in 2001, Karina worked at many of the new buildings that welcome residents and visitors to Membertou First Nation, where she now works at the Office of Senator Dan Christmas.

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