Jolain Foster and Chris Thomas are still at the going to the University of Northern British Columbia even after graduating, only now as full-time employees.
Foster, 25, graduated from the university with a bachelor of Commerce degree (majoring in accounting) in December 2000. Born in Hazelton, B.C, she is a member of the Gitxsan First Nation. Foster, who attended the Prince George Secondary School, graduated with honors in 1993.
"In December of 2000, I was offered employment with the university here as a First Nations liaison officer and academic advisor," said Foster. "Although I was pursuing a career in accounting, this was a way for me to expand my experience in public relations and administration," she said.
Foster credits her parents for setting an example for her to continue in school.
"My dad passed away when I was very young, but before he died it was always known that we were going to university. He always used to talk about education first and everything was second," said Foster. "It is pretty much why I strive so high in my goals. I always knew that I was supposed to do something in my life. He always stressed that, and after he died that was pretty much what I went on," she said.
Thomas, 32, is from the Lake Babine First Nation in Burns Lake and graduated from the university in April 2000 with a degree in Political Science and a certificate in First Nations Public Administration.
Going back to school was a challenge for Thomas. He is the father of two boys, and while attending school he worked at a couple of part-time jobs to make ends meet.
"I decided to go back to school when I was 26. It was a challenge at times but my wife was great. She really encouraged me," said Thomas. "Doing five courses and working part-time was at times trying," he said.
Thomas credits his parents for instilling the importance of education.
"My parents were my mentors and also a professor, Greg Poelzer. They encouraged me a great deal and taught me the importance of an education," said Thomas. "While growing up we moved around a bit.
"My dad is a pipeline engineer, so I was able to see a fair amount of Canada and I got to stay in a few places overseas," he said.
Thomas is employed at the university in the Telecommunications Services department.
"It is going great. I know I have a degree in political Science but I have an affinity for computers. It is a great place to work," said Thomas. "The work environment is terrific. Both the hardware and the software of the computers are state of the art. If someone has a problem with their computer, I can either help them over the phone or go over and help them," he explained.
"Chris is a wonderful, wonderful person. He is so helpful. Even as a student he was helping out with the computers," said Donna Hebert, secretary First Nations Centre. "Jolain is really mature for her age. She knows what she wants. I have a lot of respect for both of them. They are definitely both role models for the students," she said.
The University of Northern British Columbia is located in Prince George. It was officially opened in 1994. The first year the university had approximately 1,400 students enrolled. Today, it is attended by more than 3,000 students.
A First Nations Centre located on campus provides all types of counseling services. It also has funding available to employ tutors for students.