“Academic mother” drives AESP student’s progress

Teevi Mackay, outside of the Library of Parliament, spends a rare moment away from books after graduating from Carleton’s Aboriginal Enriched Support Program. Mackay is poised to be the first student in the program’s 10-year history to enrol in journalism this fall. (Daniel Reid Photo)

When times are tough, when assignments are stacking up or when studying feels like a full-time job, Teevi Mackay is guided by a little voice that lives in her phone.

“You can do it,” says the voice. “I believe in you.” These inspiring words come from Mackay’s grandmother, who has mastered the technological intricacies of text messaging.

However odd the pairing of senior plus cellphone might seem, she has always made this kind of focused effort to stay dialled into her granddaughter’s education.

“(My grandmother is) my encouragement,” says Mackay, originally from Nunavut, who just finished Carleton’s Aboriginal Enriched Support Program. “She’s like my academic mother. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have that.”

Mackay is now poised to be the first student in the AESP’s 10-year history to enrol in journalism this fall. She will also be majoring in politics with a focus on international relations.

It’s been a long journey for Mackay, who is the mother of a four-year-old daughter.

Mackay first got interested in politics when she was given the chance to be a page for the first sitting of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut in 1999.

Mackay then moved to Ottawa in 2008 to attend Nunavut Sivuniksavut College, which offers an eight-month training program to prepare Inuit youth for careers created by the Nunavut government.

“Everyone is positively impacted by the program,” says Mackay. It teaches subjects ranging from the history of land claims to post-secondary study techniques. “I basically took everything away from that program. It gives you a chance to explore yourself. In the program, you feel at home.”

Nothing, however, could have prepared Mackay for university life.

“It’s intimidating to go from 20 students to thousands on campus,” she says of the sheer size of Carleton’s campus.

The workload, too, came as a bit of a shock. Though she received a lot of help from her husband George and his sister Liz, Mackay admits she was “a little bit floored” when her life became consumed by reading from textbooks.

But Mackay, taking grandma’s advice, knew how to cope.

“Go study by yourself,” her grandma would recommend, encouraging Mackay to tuck herself away in a quiet corner of Carleton’s library.

“I spent most of my time there,” Mackay says.

Mackay would someday like to be a CBC reporter based in Iqaluit but, more than anything, wants to do good for her people.

“I’d like to be an advocate for Inuit.”


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Daniel Reid

By Daniel Reid

Whether it’s scientific breakthroughs, political manoeuvres or loaded technical jargon, Daniel Reid loves to untangle complex ideas to make them accessible to everyone. He is currently an editor at @newsrooms and is a former web editor at @CTVNews and homepage editor at @TheLoopCA. You can argue with him on Twitter at @ahatrack.

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