Child and Youth Care alum plants roots in a respected community organization
In 1995, after graduating from MacEwan University’s Child and Youth Care program, Cheryl Whiskeyjack, began her career as a youth worker at Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society. The organization, which provides programs and services for Edmonton’s urban Indigenous youth, was brand new too.
In the years since, both Cheryl and Bent Arrow have grown into recognized and respected names in their field. Bent Arrow now offers 18 programs and services, and has established partnerships with organizations across the province and beyond. Leading the way is Cheryl herself, now executive director of the organization.
“I’ve always been a rooted person,” says Cheryl. “I grew up in the same house my whole life, and you can say professionally I grew up in the same house as well. This has allowed me to grow surrounded by support.”
It’s no surprise that Cheryl has been a part of Bent Arrow for so many years – she has always known that that’s where she needed to be. “Honestly, my goal was to do exactly what I’m doing now,” she says. “At my core, I’m a helper. That’s what I’ve been every step of the way. I’m not stuck on titles and often don’t introduce myself that way. It’s not the most important thing about me.”
“While I didn’t aspire to be a leader, becoming a leader is largely what my journey has been about,” she adds.
Cheryl’s deep roots at Bent Arrow, and the experience and leadership skills she has acquired during her time there, have allowed her to branch out even further into the community. She serves on the board of the Canadian Accreditation Council of Human Services and the Align Association of Community Services, and has contributed to organizations like End Poverty Edmonton. She’s also sharing her experience and wisdom through the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations Executive Director Mentorship program. Through her work at Bent Arrow, she has fostered partnerships with many organizations, including Edmonton Public Schools, Edmonton Police Service, Alberta Children’s Services, University of Calgary, Blue Quills University and MacEwan University.
Over the course of her career, Cheryl has learned that you can go the furthest by building on where you already are. “Find a place you like and make a life out of it,” Cheryl advises. “I don’t mean do the same thing for the rest of your life, but find ways within your environment to grow and build something that you can look back on and admire.”
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.