Saige Arcand credits her grandmother for raising her right. Now, the 28-year-old woman from Alexander First Nation is turning that around by helping others.
She just made it to the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s annual Top 30 Under 30 list. It shines a spotlight on young Albertans who are working to achieve sustainable development goals such as ending poverty and homelessness.
Arcand was nominated by her co-workers at prominent literacy organization Frontier College for her work in promoting the health and well-being of many others even younger than she is. Saige said that if it weren’t for her grandmother, Adele Arcand, things would be entirely different.
“Why I am where I am is because of her,” she said. Adele Arcand is the CEO of Bearwoman and Associates, and has worked to heal many Indigenous people of intergenerational traumas all over Canada.
Saige said she travelled with her a lot when she was younger and got to experience her grandmother’s healing personally.
“I was very inspired by her all my life. She has instilled amazing values and morals, and always taught me from a very cultural perspective to always stay grounded and believe in yourself no matter if you come across challenges. I’ve definitely had my fair share of struggles and challenges as a teen and young adult, still to this day. I always take her teachings with me.”
Several years ago, Saige Arcand was a young mother without much for job prospects but she had a deep desire to build a life as she built her family. Her daughter became Saige's inspiration.
“If anything, my daughter is my motivation. She’s my fire. She’s looking up to me and I’m going to make a good life for her.”
Saige always had a love for the creative arts including makeup and fashion so she went back to school to get her diploma in esthetics. Her career, she said, bloomed from there.
Soon afterward, she started doing esthetics workshops for Indigenous women and youths, while working to boost her students’ inner beauty at the same time.
“I would embed self-esteem and self-confidence and empowerment into those workshops. I was trying to use it as my technique and my skill to inspire people to do something that they were passionate about and share that with others.”
Her early successes led to more workshops and eventually to becoming more involved in co-ordinating fashion shows. Then, she got her arts and cultural management diploma.
Having that on her resumé helped land her a spot at Frontier College a few years ago. Saige provides training to the counsellors of an urban community-based Indigenous summer literacy camp program for kids aged 5 to 12. The camp has become so popular and effective that it is expanding to more than 20 communities this year. She is also working on a literacy program with iHuman Youth Society.
It’s a lot of work, she readily admits, but it’s so rewarding. She loves helping people and helping them to feel good about themselves too. “I’ve already grown so much in this job. They allow me to do that. That’s what I value. I feel like I’m flourishing in this job.”
Saige said she is doing all this because her grandmother kept telling her to believe in herself and that she can do anything she sets her mind to.
“I’m such a huge, firm believer that if you tap into any passion of yours and you’re able to express it then it really helps you live a healthier and more positive life. You have a better outlook on life because you’re doing something you love,” she said. “It’s taking your past and turning it into power. That’s how I look at it.”
It’s funny to Saige that she had never heard of the Alberta Council for Global Co-operation before she was accepted onto this list.
“It’s a huge honour to me because I never looked at my community work … as something that I’d be getting an award for. It’s just something that I love to do and it’s natural.”