Ashley Ozunko

Ashley Ozunko

What education have you taken?

I graduated from Minot State University in 2012 with my Bachelor of Science with a major in Management. This spring I will graduate with my Bachelor of Education from Brandon University.

What accomplishments are you proud of?

During my time at Minot State, I was a member of the Minot State Softball team where I received a Golden Glove award in my final year. I have volunteered for years at the Manitoba Developmental Centre, working with people with intellectual disabilities, and I have enjoyed coaching and co-coaching several sports teams over the years. This past year I was the proud recipient of the Dr. Wilfred W. McCutcheon Scholarship in Education. During my time at Brandon University I have continued to maintain board positions with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services as well as with a brand-new initiative, Eagles Wings Flight School.

Give a brief bio about yourself:

I am a proud member of Dakota Plains First Nation and attended high school in Portage la Prairie, MB, where I graduated in 2008. I am married to a wonderful man, named Ryan, and we are the proud parents of a sweet 3-year-old boy named Riley. The three of us and our dog, Smokey, live in Portage la Prairie.  I have commuted to Brandon University for the last three years to finish my schooling. In our free time we enjoy playing sports, travelling and spending as much time together as we can. I value my family, my culture, coffee and helping youth above all else.

How did you become interested in your field of study?

I was blessed to have great teachers who, although I wasn’t always the easiest of students, chose to see past the behaviours to the person underneath. They inspired me to dream. After completing my first degree, I spent some time working in Child and Family Services and that is where I got to truly experience the social ills on my, and many other First Nations, and decided that it was time to be a part of the change. There are many children living on First Nations that do not have the same supports or people to believe in them that I always did, and I truly believe education is one of the keys to breaking the cycles of trauma that still remain in our communities. It was after my son was born that I was inspired to finally fulfill my dreams and hopefully inspire other young First Nations kids to dream as well.

What is your philosophy in life?

I am a big believer that change is always possible and that there is nothing laughter and a good cup of coffee can’t help fix. I also believe that honesty will never lead you astray and that loving yourself and your family well is the first step to changing the world.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

In the future I see myself a lot like I see myself now: a mother, a wife and a teacher. I see myself working with First Nations Youth and growing our family.

Nominator’s Comments:

It is my pleasure to nominate Ashley Ozunko to be recognized as an exceptional female student.

I taught Ms. Ozunko last semester (fall 2019) in ‘Middle Years Social Studies Methods.’ A central focus of the course required that students actively participate in rigorous and thoughtful inquiry. Further, this called upon students to take responsibility for their own and others’ learning by honouring open discussion, prompting the expansion of others’ viewpoints, engaging in dialogue, and ultimately fostering an ability and willingness to challenge assumptions of others and their own. The focus on critically exploring one’s lived experiences is often a unique task for many students. Throughout the semester, Ms. Ozunko thoughtfully and insightfully expressed her ideas both in writing and during class discussions. Her measured and respectful comments toward the topics of inquiry and others’ opinions contributed to her emerging as a leader among her peers. Moreover, she openly embraced many new ideas pertaining to curriculum inquiry. On several occasions, she demonstrated enlarged understandings of herself, others and the content of study.

Aside from her many outstanding academic attributes, Ms. Ozunko is kind, enthusiastic, and willing to push against the status quo.