A Wildwood woman who’s dedicated her life to young people in her community was recognized with a big award last month.
Christine Cyr, the program co-ordinator for aboriginal recruitment at the University of Manitoba, was honoured with the Future Leaders of Manitoba award in the community service category.
The award aims to recognize and honour a young Manitoban who is making a name for themselves in their field, while making an effort to go above and beyond.
Cyr said it was a complete surprise to be nominated for, and win, the award.
"The people I was nominated with in my category of community service do outstanding, over-the-top things, and so I was shocked when they called my name," Cyr said, noting she’s both humbled and overwhelmed by the recognition.
"I’m an accumulation of all the people and experiences I’ve had in my life. This is an award for all the people and experiences I’ve gone through," Cyr said.
Cyr has worked at the U of M for 13 years, and said her role in recruiting aboriginal students has changed over the years.
"I feel fortunate I’ve been able to take this position in the places (I have) so that I’m able to spend more time with students in schools, building relationships with students, with teachers and with the community," Cyr said.
Cyr said for her, education was a huge "game changer". Cyr was the first of her family to attend university, and has inspired four of her siblings, as well as her adult children to follow in her footsteps.
Cyr and her six siblings grew up in abject poverty, something she felt ashamed of, and therefore never talked about.
Now, as a grown-up, she says her experiences have given her the ability to relate to some of the people she works with. She hopes her story will inspire the students she’s working with.
"I guess because of the extremeness of it – the extreme poverty, the extreme shame we grew up with around our culture – really shows there’s never a point where it’s too late, where it’s so bad. You can (overcome) anything," Cyr said.
One of the main programs Cyr runs through the U of M is the Post-Secondary Club. The program works with aboriginal students throughout their high school education; providing extracurricular activities, field trips and cultural activities.
"The idea is (to create) meaningful contact and a meaningful relationship that really gives them a sense of belonging and a sense of possibility as far as education is concerned," Cyr said.
Cyr said one of her main priorities is working to overcome barriers many aboriginal students are faced with in terms of gaining access to post-secondary education – things like mobility between home communities and the city, first generation students, and an imbalance in education attainment levels.
"Creating opportunities to help overcome those barriers is probably my number-one priority," Cyr said.
Cyr also sits on several boards and committees including the United Way, Career Trek, and Southeast Child and Family Services.
For more information on Future Leaders of Manitoba go to flmc.mb.ca.