Q&A With a Graduate: Eskasoni’s Karlee Johnson

Over the next few months we’ll be sitting down with 2014 Grade 12 graduates from MK schools across the province and getting to know what they loved about most about learning in their community, what they learned on their journey to a high school diploma, and their future plans and aspirations.

This month, meet Karlee Johnson, a grade 12 student at Chief Allison Bernard Memorial High School in Eskasoni, and a member of the first graduating class of the province’s first Mi’kmaq Immersion Program.

What is your name, age, school, and what community are you from?

My name is Karlee Johnson from Eskasoni First Nation. I am eighteen years old, attending Chief Allison Bernard Memorial High School.

What clubs, teams, or groups are you involved in at school, and after-school?

I have been involved on the school’s Eskasoni Girls Volleyball team since the tenth grade. I have also been involved with the Rotary Interact Club since the eleventh grade where I am presently elected as president. 

Since September of twelfth grade, I have made my commitment to the school’s Health Club Committee, and also NADACA’s Peer helpers. 

After school, I am the leading Coordinator for the Peer Math tutoring program for students in junior high. It takes place every week on Thursdays, and usually ranges for about two hours.

What’s your favourite subject in school?

One of the subjects that has always appealed to me in particular is Mathematics. As I advanced to a higher grade each year, my mother always made sure to tell me that Math had always been like a whole different language. 

In sixth grade, I took her theory into consideration and I’ve always strived to the best of my ability to read that “language”. I always expected to get a more complex question than the one that was assigned but that was not always the case. 

I continued this attitude throughout my years in junior high, and paid more attention, especially when I got into High School. I was taught lessons in math from simple multiplication, algebra, to orders of operation, and the answers all came together easier, when you learned and understood the new math terms. This habit of practice allowed me to cope and learn the new work assigned. 

In eleventh grade, the substitution method with three equations always frightened me since everyone had always warned me that the answer would be a page long. When I came around to learn it, I thought it wasn’t so bad and made a perfect mark on the midterm exam that year. 

From these experiences with math, I continue to try my best and aim for perfect marks in all of my quizzes, tests and exams. I know that I will continue this attitude not only in Mathematics, but also in all other subjects I take in the future.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?

The thought of choosing to go anywhere in the world is a difficult question. I know that when I get older, I will choose my own vacations and the destinations I would like to see. However, having to choose on a particular destination on the spot is difficult, as I would have to consider the environment, economics, and people. 

So, if I could choose to be anywhere in the world, I would choose to be somewhere beyond the world. I would like to experience a place where I would be happy, and satisfied. Wherever this place may be, I would like to go there.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, doing lawn work, jogging, and enjoying my time with friends around a bon fire. I also sometimes enjoy watching television shows in my living room at home and just relaxing.

What are your plans for when you graduate, and why? What do you see yourself doing ten years from now?

My main goal in life is most importantly be completely satisfied and happy. The fact of graduating from high school should not be one of the biggest accomplishments of life, but rather it should be the initial step towards your future goal. 

I have always wanted to pursue a career in medicine, which is why I will be studying Bachelor of Science in Medical Sciences at the Dalhousie University in September. One of the steps of my journey is to complete the first year of university the way that I have it planned. I have been taught enough lessons to know that I have the responsibility, and independence to make this goal happen. If I am completely satisfied with pursuing a career in medicine within the four years of the undergraduate program, then I will likely apply for medical school. 

Ten years from now, whatever I may choose to become whether if it’s a x-ray technician, a general practitioner or an orthopedic surgeon, I want to be happy. 

Being happy is one of the key aspects in living a successful life, and I believe it is important for everyone to enjoy life in whatever they may choose to be in the future.

If you could be anything at all, what would you be?

If I could be anything at all, I would choose to become a bird. I say this because I have always wanted to fly and always wanted to see the things birds may see during their flights.

Do you have a role model? If so, who? And why?

My role model is not in fact one person, but it involves two people. These two people have helped me during my journey of life such as school from day care, to the twelfth grade. They have always been there to teach me the facts of life, and what it means to be independent and responsible. Their constant encouragement to pursue a desired goal in my life remains their top priority. They know that when I succeed, they succeed. 

They have taught me things such as how to speak, how to not be shy, and most importantly, how to respect others. Many of these teachings included speaking to me in my First Nation language, Mi’kmaq, which I am fluent. These lessons of course are only few of what they have taught me. I am proud to say that these two people are my parents.

What is your best memory from your high school years?

The best memory of high school has definitely been the time when I entered the Rita Joe art contest. I put in all my effort, and knowledge towards this particular art project that I entered in the contest. It was my first year of high school, and I had been off to Track and field that day. I won first place, and I felt so honored. Although I was not present to collect my prize that day, my parents were called up to accept my prize for me. They were also very proud of me.

What is the best thing about your school? Who has made an impact on you?

The best thing about my school is the support system that exists. The teachers are able to support the students as they are the ones who impact the child and are seen as the ones who share their knowledge. Children take in the knowledge, which leads them towards their future goals. 

The one person who has impacted me the most is my principal, Newell Johnson. She has treated me with such respect and genuine care that just motivated me to try to excel in everything I did. 

I can also say that each and every one of my teachers that have taught me from each grade have also taught me something in their own way.

Is there something you’d like to see in your school or community that isn’t there now? 

I would probably like to see a support group with students that is coordinated by someone who is trained. This support system would help children not only through their academics, but through life things such as self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-being. I believe that this would be beneficial for the child as this would help them in becoming an adult and to help them to succeed in the real world.

You’re graduating from the immersion program. What valuable experience/tools have you gained from being in this program? How do you think it will help you in the future? Do you think it’s important for more students to be enrolled in the program? What was your favourite part? Is there anything you think could be improved in it? 

From being in the immersion program, I have gained self-confidence, and I have also learned the importance of respecting your elders. I also learned the prayers in Mi’kmaq including the Our father, Hail Mary and Apostle’s Creed. I can also say that I am able to read, write and speak in our First Nations language. 

With these key elements that I have learned from the program, I am hoping to use them towards my future when speaking to my people in my community. Whatever career path I choose, I will be able to convert my knowledge from English to Mi’kma’q to help those who know the language. This will help me, especially if I travel from one First Nation community to another. 

In my opinion, I believe it is very important to enroll a child in the immersion program. However, there are certain guidelines and responsibilities that have to be followed as a guardian/parent. The parent has to be prepared to help their children with their homework, their spelling, and the words that they have to learn that day. You cannot just leave it up to the child to be able to observe the information, especially at the young age. I could say that I definitely had the support from my parents during the program, which is why I had become one of the successful students during this program. The child will indeed need guidance, and assurance to make them achieve their successes. 

My favorite part about the program, was learning new Mi’kma’q songs each day and singing them with our classmates. Although I do not have a singing voice, I was still able to learn new tunes as well as sing them too. 

I believe that there is nothing that I would change about the program. However, the key element of having the child enrolled within this program is to be able to help them when they are in need. Even if the parents do not speak the language, they should still be able to help their child to the best of their ability. 

The only thing that needs to be improved is that parents cannot just expect their children to be masters of the first nation language when they are in the program; the parents have to help in reaching out to their language.

Ta’n tujiw eymanek Immersion Program, keknu’tumuksiekip ta’n teli kepmite’lsin aqq elt ta’n tel mekite’lmjik kisiku’k. Eknu’tumksiekip elt ta’n teli lnui alasutamamk. Wujjiek, Kulein Ma’li, aqq Wel ketlamsitasi eknu’tmuksiekitip. Kis tlueyitis elt natawi lnui kijey, lnui wi’kikey, aqq elt natawi lnui’si. Ta’n koqoey kis kinu’tmuksi la’ program, elapi elmi’knik aqq etawey kis wli lnui’sin ta’n tujiw klulkik kikamanaq wutaniminiw. Ta’n te’sik koqoey kisi kina’masi aklasiewe’kati ta’n tujiw kisukweyan, apoqnmuamatis kikamanaq ta’n tel kjijitekey klamann nsituitaq lnuiktuk. Wli apoqnmuitew la ta’n tujiw ala’sian pilewe’l lnu we’kati’l. 

Ta’n ni’n telite’tm, ajipjulk wen wikama’jl ika’lan Immersion Program. Katu na’sik, etekl na tplu’taqnn ta’n amujpa majukwatmin ta’n tujiw kisita’sin ika’lan ikinijan u’t program. Amujpa apoqnmuatisk ta’n tujiw pekisitoq lukwaqnn, ta’n teli lnui wi’kikej, aqq elt ta’n klusuaqnn amujpa nenkl wjit na’kwek. Mu na’ pasik kisi ilita’sualawt kinijan jijitimin aqq nenimin msit koqoey ta’n kis kina’muksit. Ni’n katu kis tluetisk nujjewijik wel kina’muipni’k ta’n tujiw eymanek la program. Mawi kesatmap ni’n lnui ketapikey ta’n tujiw eymanek. Ekna’muksiekipnil tapikiaqnn newtipunkek, aqq ni’n kesatmap welqatm. Mu katu ni’n kis tluew ta’n koqoey ni’n aja’tmus wjit Mi’kma’q Immersion program. Ajipjulkik pasik skwijinu’k apoqnmuatinew wikamawaq klaman kelu’kw kis tla’taqititaq.

Words of advice, a personal favourite quote, or a thank-you?

“Kisiku’k telua’tijik, “Kelu’kw na’ tla’teken, mu nuta’nuk kinuwa’lsin, jiju’lten ki’s’”. Elders say “If you are doing well, you do not have to brag nor do you have to tell everyone, they will already know.”

I would like to continue to thank my parents, my family, and to the teachers who have supported me throughout high school.

Thanks, Karlee! Best of luck in the future!