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If At First You Don’t Succeed

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Clayton Davis is in a good place these days.

He recently graduated from Northern Lights College with his Social Services Worker diploma, attended a workshop on language revitalization in Hawaii, and was accepted into the Bachelor of Social Work program at the University of Northern BC.

But things in his life were not always so positive.

Not long ago, Clayton was battling addiction and depression. “I relieve stress in a negative manner. I got into my addiction, and it took over my life,” he says. Desperately seeking help, he found the North Wind Wellness Centre in Farmington, BC.

While he was at North Wind, he began to rethink his direction in life. A member of Saulteau First Nation, Clayton connected with the North East Native Advancing Society (NENAS) and their Employment Assistance Services Officer, Monica Gardiner. She encouraged him to go back to school and directed him to NLC.

As he began to plan a brighter future for himself, Clayton decided he wanted to also help fellow addicts, those who were experiencing the same struggles that he had. “I realized education was the only way out. . . to save me so I could help others,” he says. The Social Services Worker Diploma program offered him a way to do that.

It may have been a surprising program choice, given that social workers don’t have the best reputation with Indigenous people, Clayton says. “The only social workers I knew were the ones that came on reserve and took children away. The ‘60s Scoop’ and everything else.” He believes that, as an Indigenous person with first-hand experience akin to what his future clients may experience, he brings a perspective to the field that others may not have.

So, Clayton completed NLC’s social service worker program in 2022, but it was not his first time at NLC. He had previously attended right after high school to do college prep courses, but his experience at that time was very different.

“When I was here 30 years ago, I was the only native in the school. I felt like I did not belong in school. That was the vibe I got,” he says. “Now, it has definitely improved. I feel welcomed here. It’s not just the curriculum that has changed. It’s the attitude of the instructors and the fellow students.”

Of all the places on the Dawson Creek campus, he says the Indigenous Gathering Space was his absolute favourite and even credits it with helping him complete his program.

“I had access to internet that I never had to worry about breaking down, a warm fireplace, fellow students. . . I used the TV once in a while for studying. It was integral to my education,” he says. Clayton threw himself into his studies but also joined the drumming circle as a way of creating some balance in his life. He plans to continue that drumming even now that he’s graduated.

Looking back, he can’t help but contrast where his life is now to where it was those years ago at the rehab centre. Understandably, he is proud of himself and grateful to those that helped him on his journey.

“I did the work, but they gave me the tools,” he says. “Without those tools, I wouldn’t have gotten here.”