Meet 1 of 9 Indigenous grandmothers earning a master's at Laurier

Vivian Timmins is one of nine Indigenous grandmothers to walk across the stage to receive her Masters of social work in Indigenous field study during Wilfrid Laurier University convocation on Friday.

Vivian Timmins uses family, residential school experience, as motivation

Vivian Timmins, 55, is one of nine Indigenous grandmothers to receive her master's of social work in Indigenous field study this year. Timmins also goes to schools, colleges and universities and speaks about Indian Residential Schools. (Vivian Timmins)

Vivian Timmins will walk across the stage in a traditional regalia during her convocation on Friday at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont.

Timmins, 55, is one of nine Indigenous grandmothers to receive her Master of Social Work, Indigenous Field of Study this year.

She said she's wearing the regalia to send a message.

"It's all about empowering myself and reclaiming what was taken from me and saying 'I'm here, this is me and nobody could change me,'" she said. 

Her journey to earn a master's degree started when she became a grandmother and held her newborn granddaughter for the first time.

"That's when I really started looking at my life and saying 'Okay, what do I want here?'" said Timmins, who overcame personal struggles as a result of being a residential school survivor.

"I questioned a lot of things when I held my granddaughter and I said 'There's changes I have to do for her sake.' I want to be a positive role model in her life."

'I have no regrets'

Earning her master's degree was a seven-year quest, Timmins said. She started by getting a second college diploma in 2010 and then a bachelor's degree. In 2014, she entered the master's program at Laurier.

"It turned out to be a good decision and I have no regrets," she said. "It took some time away from my family but with their support I was able to do it."

Having other Indigenous women at the same point in their lives studying alongside her was was uplifting, she said.

"It showed that I wasn't the only one that decided to go back to school at a later time in life," she added. "It proved to me to be a leader by example."

Not done with school yet

Timmins said she is looking to continue her education, possibly a Ph.D. .

In the mean time, she is going to keep working as an emotional support worker for residential school survivors and their families.

On Friday Timmins' family, including the granddaughter who originally inspired her, will be cheering for her as she walks across the stage to receive her degree.