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Kamloops teacher picking up pieces of her culture, empowering Indigenous youth

Kelsey Jules is a teacher, artist and model in Kamloops. She works as a role model to educate and empower First Nations youth.
Image Credit: Tracey Mounsey Photography
June 28, 2021 - 6:00 AM

Kelsey Jules decided to become a teacher from a sense of responsibility to pass on her First Nation's culture.

Jules lives in Kamloops on Tk’emlups te Secwepmc First Nation lands. She is Secwepemc and Syilx Okanagan and has been working as an Indigenous education worker for five years. 

“I knew I had a responsibility to teach and to be a role model,” Jules said. “Once I started working in the school, my responsibilities became even more apparent to me. It means the world to me to be able to teach the youth about their culture.”

Jules remembers an instance when the school district had a student panel and a young girl was talking about how she was ashamed of her heritage, due to the stereotypes that come with it. 

“It broke my heart knowing that students are still experiencing this,” Jules said. “Every single one of their stories was relatable to me. When I received my job at the district I wanted to share my story with the kids to let them know they aren’t alone.

"I found that once I started sharing my knowledge and experiences, the kids opened up right away. Being a resource for students has not only helped me find my own place but it helps them find out who they are too.”

Jules is still learning about her native culture, piecing together a history that has been left untaught. She grew up going to a school that didn’t teach her about her Indigenous heritage.

As she learned more and more about who she is and where she comes from it gave her a greater understanding of her own family.

"I never knew what it meant to be a First Nations person. The school I went to never taught anything about it, so I really had to learn a lot on my own. The more I learn, the more I understand. And I know I will never stop learning.”

Jules is an artist and graduate of the bachelor of fine arts program at Thompson Rivers University.

She has had her work shown at the Vancouver airport, at various shows and commissions in Kamloops, and in the new trades building at TRU.

She is also a model at Fashion Speaks International, an agency that is geared toward First Nations women. In 2020, she was in Paris for the International Fashion Week, modelling three different designer’s lines.

“I didn’t think that I would ever be in a career like modelling,” Jules said. “I never really thought of myself as beautiful. Yet it was just another step for me to be a role model.

"It doesn’t matter that I’m 5’2”, I was still asked to walk the runway and have photo shoots. I was in Paris as a model changing beauty standards in my own way. And I was helping all the young boys and girls to be proud of themselves and confident enough to shine in their own way. To never let anyone else tell them who they are or what they can or can’t do. They have the strength and power to be who they want.”

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