First-year Brescia University College student Nikita Miller wouldn’t strike you as a “mature student” at first glance, as this term is often associated with someone more advanced in age, but her life experience is that of someone beyond her 22 years.
Miller is this year’s recipient of Brescia’s Eleanore Donnelly Bursary Award, which is granted to a mature woman annually. Before coming to Brescia, Miller gained experience as a mother, volunteer, and traveller. Between Grades 11 and 12, Miller completed a nine-month Katimavik program, which took her to three different provinces for a full-time volunteer program. Bitten by the service bug, she then spent six months with the Canada World Youth program, sharing a Canadian experience with students from Sri Lanka and Mali and then travelling to Africa for a three-month stay in 2007.
“Living in Mali was quite the opposite of what most people would expect. It made me realize how much we’re missing because there they have a sense of family and neighbours help each other. On a people level, I learned that we’re lacking sometimes,” Miller said.
Miller explains that her desire to help others is ingrained. “I’ve always been drawn to do more than what is expected to help others.” That nurturing quality serves Miller well as the mother of 16-month-old son Hayden. “He was the one who got me on the fast track to get my education. When I had Hayden in 2008, I started going to a young mom’s group. Donnafaye Milton (Brescia’s Community Outreach Co-ordinator) spoke to our group. Instantly I thought Brescia was a good fit for me. I didn’t know about Brescia before. I don’t know where I would have wound up without that contact.”
Miller identifies her parents and other family and friends in her “solid support network” as her greatest influences “who do wonderful things in very subtle ways.” When Hayden is sick and can’t go to daycare, her mother and grandmother care for him while Miller is in school.
At Brescia, Miller is busy with her studies and volunteer work. She will be running for Students’ Council in the next election and is currently planning a “Swap and Shop” with three other students. Students are being asked to donate their gently-used clothing in advance. “This event is designed to donate clothing and fundraise for those in need. We are also providing an opportunity for students to purchase clothing at an extremely reasonable cost.”
In addition, Miller has begun planning an informal networking group for students who are mothers. She plans to have the group running by the time she graduates so that it will be one of her legacies at Brescia. At this stage, Miller is asking students to self-identify by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When asked about her goals for Hayden, Miller said, “I would like my son to be bilingual. I want him to be a leader – maybe not so much if his personality doesn’t allow it, but of his own life. I want him to know that he’s supported in whatever path he chooses. I always want him to have good morals and respect for people. The rest is up to him. If he’s happy, I’m happy.”