Daughter motivates young Iqaluit mother to pursue her dreams

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After finishing a year at Nunavut Sivuniksavut and two years in office administration, Neoma Cox wanted something more. You could say she found it.

photo courtesy of Nunavut Arctic College
Neoma Cox – young mother, Class of 2018 Environmental Technology Program graduate, student of the year and Nunatta Campus valedictorian – celebrates with her classmates. Back row, from left: Jonah Qittusuk, Natalie O’Grady, Catriona Popoff, Karen Nungaq, Anu Boucher and Etuangat Akeeagok. Front row, right: Neoma Cox and Nicole Ymana.

The Environmental Technology Program Class of 2018 graduate is student of the year, chosen by instructors and classmates, and the pick for the Nunatta Campus valedictorian. ​Plus, she’s on the Dean’s list, one of six ETP student with grades above 80 per cent..

“I almost didn’t apply,” Cox said. “But I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. It was the most amazing two years of my life.”

She turned to the ETP program hoping for a good-paying job to support her daughter Brianna – her “biggest motivation” – who was two when she finished office administration.

Cox wanted more from her career. She recalls a co-worker being upset about K-Cup coffee pods.

“‘This is adding so much garbage to the environment. Our footprint counts.’ I remembered that when I looked at ETP (Environmental Technology Program) and I always heard good things from one of my friends who previously was in it,” Cox said.

“But I was really scared. The biggest thing that scared me was leaving my daughter for a week for field camp.”

Cox overcame her fear with the help of her father and grandmother. They, her boyfriend Saumik Darehshoripour and her classmates became her support system.

“We became this ETP family. The instructors were really supportive, really understanding.”

Early in the program, Brianna became ill, which required repeated medical travel to Ottawa. Brianna, who graduates pre-school as her mother graduated from ETP, will begin kindergarten at Joamie School in the fall. Her health is good. And she can’t wait to start her own school career after having had a taste of it through her mom’s studies.

“She’s so excited. She always wanted to come to class with me and she loved the instructors,” Cox said, adding she managed to catch up and make up the time any time lost during Brianna’s illness.

“I hope she takes after me and goes further than I went,” said Cox.

But at 24, Cox is just getting started. She works as a junior programs officer with the federal government in the contaminated sites division and she’s being encouraged to further her education.

photo courtesy Nunavut Arctic College
Nicole Ymana, left, Neoma Cox, and Catriona Popoff conduct some testing during Environmental Technology Program’s field camp in April.

Inspiration has come to Cox via another young woman.

“I’ve always admired Becky Kilabuk. She works a lot with youth. She’s doing all these programs to help youth and engage youth and making sure our culture and language is included. She’s always speaking so highly of Inuit,” said Cox.

Last summer Cox participated in the National Inuit Youth Council summit in Nain.

“There’s still a lot of things I want to help do,” she said.

Thinking back over her two years in ETP, Cox says: “Growing up here can be hard, with the suicides, the drug and alcohol abuse, and the graduating percentage for Nunavut isn’t that great. I wanted to prove to (Brianna) that even though I had her at a young age I could still pursue my dreams. She wasn’t holding me back. She motivated me to go further. Every time I felt I couldn’t keep going, or I was scared to keep going … These little brown eyes were looking up at me.”

But these days, she’s looking forward to going on a family vacation. Aside from visiting her boyfriend’s family in Sept Iles, she mentions Niagara Falls. She especially wants to take her grand-mother and daughter on a trip together.

“What I want for my daughter and really for every child is to pursue their education and to reach for more than just a high school diploma. To believe in themselves, to know they’re capable of more than they think or more than they could’ve ever imagined,” she said.

“As long as they work hard they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. Great things take time and with some hard work they’re achievable.”

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Michele LeTourneau first arrived at NNSL's headquarters in Yellowknife in1998, with a BA honours in Theatre. For four years she documented the arts across the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Following a very short stint as a communications officer with the Government of the Northwest Territories, Michele spent a decade at a community-based environmental monitoring board in the mining industry, where she worked with Inuit, Chipewyan, Tlicho, Yellowknives Dene and Metis elders to help develop traditional knowledge and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit contributions for monitoring and management plans. She rejoined NNSL and moved to Iqaluit in May 2014 to write for Nunavut News. Michele has received a dozen awards for her work with NNSL.