Cambridge Bay accounting student says it’s important to talk about mental health

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Kassidy Koaha-Laube will gladly share some advice with those thinking about diving into post-secondary learning at a southern institution.

Cambridge Bay’s Kassidy Koaha-Laube is in the business administration for accounting degree program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton. photo courtesy of Kassidy Koaha-Laube

Now in her third year at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), where she’s enrolled in the business administration for accounting degree program, Koaha-Laube didn’t know anybody at the school when she arrived in 2016.

It was a intimidating, but she took it one step at a time.

“I came all alone. I had nobody. I didn’t know anyone… a lot of students from Nunavut, I think that’s why they’re scared to leave home and go somewhere new,” she said, adding that her strategy to make friends was to “start small.”

“I just sat beside random people and if it went good throughout the class, it was fine. I’d continue to sit with them, talk with them and get to know them,” she said. “I found that talking to one person at a time really helped. It’s scary but it gets better.”

NAIT also has a tremendous mental health resources, Koaha-Laube said, and she’s glad she sought out a guidance counsellor and student adviser. In addition, she’s fond of the big city of Edmonton and goes on nature walks, finds a place that cooks good food or does a little shopping as a pick-me-up.

“A lot of students who are planning to go to school don’t know that (mental health) is one of the biggest struggles so it’s good to talk about it,” she said.

The amount of time devoted to homework and studying in college is definitely greater than in high school, she said. There are some days where she devotes up to 12 hours to her course work. Therefore another important adjustment she made was to reduce her workload so it’s more manageable. She took five courses per semester in her first two years while attaining her business administration for accounting diploma. She found that pace much harder to maintain in the degree program so, in consultation with a guidance counsellor, she reduced her courses to three.

“And my grades are a lot higher,” she said.

The size of her classes is much larger too. At close to 60 students per class, the NAIT lecture rooms dwarf the dozen or so students who would be in her high school classes at Kiilinik High School in Cambridge Bay. However, she’s glad not to be at a university where hundreds of seats are filled in each course, she said.

“I was like, OK I can work with 60 because any bigger and it’s kind of like nerve-racking,” she said.

Her courses this semester including intermediate accounting level II, fundamentals of ethics and critical reading and writing.

After graduating, Koaha-Laube wants to attain her chartered professional accountant designation and open an accounting business in Cambridge Bay, which currently lacks a dedicated service of that nature. To get a better feel for the industry, this summer she’s planning to intern at an accounting firm in Yellowknife.

Koaha-Laube, who’s a student alumni mentor with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association’s student program, grew up surrounded by business. Her parents, Peter and Helen, own and operate general contractor Kalvik Enterprises in Cambridge Bay. While young, she would assist the accountants and she developed a liking for crunching numbers, helping with payroll and completing administrative tasks.

Her dedication to her studies and her goals helped her win the first $5,000 John Hickes Business Scholarship through the Atuqtuarvik Corporation, which she described as “very helpful” in light of tuition costs and business textbooks that can cost as much as $300.

Kassidy Koaha-Laube was the recipient of the inaugural $5,000 John Hickes Business Scholarship through the Atuqtuarvik Corporation. photo courtesy of Kassidy Koaha-Laube