Joseph Wabegijig is a man used to adversity. From an early age, he became accustomed to overcoming arduous obstacles, and setting examples for others. Upon finishing primary school, Joseph Wabegijig went on to study at high school. This, of course, is a routine endeavour for most Canadians — but this wasn’t the case for Joseph.  There was no high school in his community of Wikwemikong, requiring a four-hour round trip every day for school. The experience stuck with him though, and he credits his parents and grandparents for instilling the values of education and discipline.

TRIUMPH OVER ADVERSITY:
Joeseph Wabegijig holds his Civil Engineering Technology diploma. 

Photo: Aboriginal Human Resource Council

A passion to succeed

Unfortunately, Joseph’s parents separated when he was a teenager. “This led to many hardships, but I feel that this experience made me stronger,” says Joseph.  

“I learned to raise myself at a young age. I knew the only way to get ahead was through education.”

After high school, Joseph moved to Peterborough and studied Home and Building Automation, paying for his education with the money he had saved from the two jobs he simultaneously held while living in Wikwemikong.

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The qualifications he gained helped propel him into a career in the audio-visual field, working on a number of major projects in Ottawa. “Some of the projects included working on the Governor General’s residence, the House of Commons, and other historical buildings.”

Further study

In 2009, Joseph enrolled at Algonquin College to study Civil Engineering and amassed an impressive array of achievements. “I was the 2010–2011 Interim President of the first Algonquin College Indigenous Student Council.  Part of that role included being a voting member of the Aboriginal Education Council. During that year we organized fundraisers, social activities, and created a supportive community as well as a voice for Aboriginal students on campus, with the goal of promoting higher education to Aboriginal Peoples of all ages,” he says.

What is especially impressive about Joseph’s educational achievements and community engagement is that he also worked full-time during his first two years of study in order to support his son. It stands as a testament to the discipline he inherited from his family.

Giving back to the community

“I learned to raise myself at a young age. I knew the only way to get ahead was through education.”

Today, Joseph is extremely grateful for the opportunities that he has experienced and works diligently to give back to his community. In 2013, he volunteered for initiatives such as the Technical Youth Career Outreach Project (TYCOP) and regularly speaks to young members of his community — continually stressing the importance of education.

SEE ALSO: A Step In The Right Direction For Aboriginal Education

Joseph now works for Hatch Ltd, an international engineering firm in Mississauga. While excelling in his role at Hatch, Joseph has continued to advocate for Aboriginal Peoples, most recently facilitating partnerships that advance Aboriginal workplace inclusion.

“For all the great things my community has done for me, I always wanted to give back. My family believed in me and I believe in the potential of Aboriginal youth in Canada.” 

With dedicated, hard-working individuals like Joseph coming from Aboriginal communities, it is little wonder that Aboriginal education should be a priority for all Canadians.