Creating her own path

Bold and blunt, 18-year old Michaella is spirited in a way that belies her tumultuous upbringing. Her childhood was cut short by physical and sexual abuse; to deal with depression and anger issues, Michaella turned to marijuana and self-harm.

At 16, Michaella was on her own, working desperately to avoid homelessness. Unable to afford food, her ongoing hunger left her unable to focus at school and she eventually dropped out.

Michaella knew she needed help to pursue her dreams.

Things changed when she moved to Calgary and re-enrolled in school. “I thought about my cousin, who dropped out and how stuck he is and it made me very motivated to come back for myself,” says Michaella.

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More than anything, I don’t want to be stuck and dependent on other people for the rest of my life.

At Jack James High School, Michaella was connected with a Success Coach and linked with resources and a supportive relationship to help her handle the ongoing implications of mental health challenges. Her Success Coach, Tasha, learned about Michaella’s interests and helped her access new experiences, including attending a camp where she learned new skills and made good friends.

Tasha then connected Michaella with the opportunity of a lifetime: a 15-week Introduction to Cook Apprenticeship offered in partnership with SAIT’s Culinary Campus, giving at-risk high school students the opportunity to learn hands-on techniques under the guidance of Calgary’s leading chefs.

The path now appears clear: three years to achieve her Red Seal, a giant step closer to her eventual goal of someday owning her own restaurant. “I don’t want much… a place to stay, food on the table and I’m happy,” says Michaella. “But I do think it would be cool to be able to employ people and give them opportunities. I would like to be able to give back and be a person others can rely on for help.”

A photo of Michaella.


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United Way of Calgary and AreaMichaella