‘Congratulations to my fellow 2020 grads’

‘I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,’ says Nx̌astatkʷ who first started her business degree in 2011.

This article is part of a series focused on Indigenous students in the Okanagan who are graduating in 2020.

Nx̌astatkʷ (Elizabeth Bent) is graduating from the Okanagan College (OC) at the Penticton campus with a Bachelor of business administration, specializing management.

In 2011, Nx̌astatkʷ started her business administration diploma. After completing her diploma in 2013, Nx̌astatkʷ took five years off to raise her three children and work full-time.

Nx̌astatkʷ wanted to complete a bachelor’s degree and her positive experience with her business administration diploma inspired her to stay on. 

“I didn’t want to work a minimum wage job my whole life.” she says.

“I wanted to get a good employment, good salary position eventually.”

In 2018, she returned full-time to complete her degree and is now graduating with the class of 2020.  

Given the unique circumstances facing the graduating classes of 2020, IndigiNews Okanagan is reporting a series on Indigenous students graduating this year. We want to get to know these students and hear their thoughts on what it’s like to graduate amid a global pandemic. 

Meet Nx̌astatkʷ (Elizabeth Bent)

“My name is Nx̌astatkʷ, Elizabeth Bent. I am a mother and wife, a daughter and aunt, a sister and niece. I am a dreamer, provider, and protector,” she says.

Nx̌astatkʷ is a member of the Penticton Indian Band. The translation of Nx̌astatkʷ from Nsyilxcən, the Syilx language, to English is watercress.

With nine years of postsecondary education, Nx̌astatkʷ wants to be a role model for her three children, Chante, Leroi, and Juila.  

“I wanted to show my kids that working hard and persevering and making the sacrifices, it all pays off in the end,” she says.

Nx̌astatkʷ Okanagan College graduation photo. Photo Submitted by: Elizabeth Bent 

When Nx̌astatkʷ is not in classes, the 36-year-old enjoys beading, sewing and making regalia for her family. 

“We’re a powwow family, we like to travel to the powwows,” she says, “We also like to do gatherings, we do traditional foods and things like that too.” 

Nx̌astatkʷ and I communicated back and forth via email and phone. We had a conversation about how she has been grappling with learning from home, how she feels about graduating and what her plans are for the fall. I’ve edited our conversation for length and clarity.

Athena: How are you doing?

Nx̌astatkʷ: Personally I am doing fantastic. School took its toll on me and my family and I was completely exhausted by the end but I finally feel rested after being out of school for a month and excited for the future. I have been blessed with the opportunity to be home with my husband and kids this last month and have been very productive around our home. 

A: What did graduation look like before COVID-19?

N: Graduation with OC hasn’t changed much for me. I took my grad photos at the school and wasn’t planning on attending convocation in June anyway so COVID hasn’t changed anything from that aspect. However, I was looking forward to walking the stage with my fellow PIB grads at our community celebration that has now been changed due to the pandemic.

A: How are you feeling about 2020 graduation changing?

N: I understand the importance of keeping our community safe and taking precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19.  

A: Did you do anything for grad?

N: On the day of my last exam I came home and my kids and husband were outside cheering for me and telling me how proud they were of me. That was the most precious moment for me. Not long after, my mom and niece showed up with a Boston Pizza feast. My mom has been one of my biggest cheerleaders throughout my years of education and knew how to make me feel special and accomplished. Dinner was delicious and she even got me cheesecake for dessert. 

A: How are you supported?

N: I couldn’t have done this without my support circle. Of course my immediate family has stood beside me all the way through. They held me up when I was struggling and pushed me to keep going. The PIB education team and the Aboriginal transition planner at Okanagan College Penticton campus were supporters as well. I also turned to friends and mentors along the way that were familiar with or graduated from the same program. 

A: What are your plans after grad?

N: I plan on returning to the workforce full time and utilizing my gained knowledge and skills in a professional capacity. 

A: What is keeping you positive?

N: I think I am an optimist by nature so I appreciate the little things in life. I reflect a lot and do my best to have a positive outlook in any given situation.

A: Any other information I should know?

N: I just want to give a shout out to my niece Kellie Wolverine-Jensen who is also a PIB 2020 Grad. I love you so much and am so proud of you.

A: Now lastly, What’s your message for other people graduating in the class of 2020?

N: Congratulations to my fellow 2020 grads. We overcame the unforeseen obstacles and added stress of the pandemic and made it to the finish line.


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