wins Presidents Medal for academics, community contributions
Chase Soosay receives
the President's Medal during his MacEwan University convocation
in July. Standing beside him are his aunt Gilda Soosay, left,
and mother Violet Soosay, right. (Submitted by Allan Linklater)
Chase Soosay said he was stunned when a professor mentioned he
wanted to nominate him for one of MacEwan University's most prestigious
So when the school's president, Dr. Annette Trimbee, called in
June, telling him he had won the President's Medal, he was even
"I was so overwhelmed with joy and I was so excited I couldn't
even believe it," he told CBC News this week.
The annual award honours an exceptional graduating student
someone with great grades who works to make their community a better
Soosay, who grew up in Maskwacis and is a member of Samson Cree
Nation, graduated this spring with a bachelor of commerce. He majored
in accounting and plans to work for KPMG in Edmonton this fall.
Though he thrived at MacEwan, Soosay's path to becoming a top award-winner
at graduation was a winding one and he has hopes of helping fellow
Indigenous students reach similar heights.
The President's Medal
honours a MacEwan student with high academic achievement and
community contributions. (Supplied by Allan Linklater)
Soosay said he was not a standout student in high school and in
2012, when he graduated, he was unsure about his career path, but
enrolled at the University of Alberta.
The school was not a great fit for him at the time. Classes were
large and he knew few people who had navigated the institution.
"I just felt like another number," he recalled.
He left school and worked a series of jobs, in concrete, landscaping,
security and roofing.
Eventually, he went back to school, following friends to MacEwan,
where he decided to study business management. His plan was to work
for the RCMP someday.
A tragedy in the fall semester of his first year changed the course
of his university career.
Just one week before midterms, Soosay learned his older brother
"My world came to a sudden stop," he said earlier this
month in his virtual convocation address.
Soosay had already lost his father to cancer years ago. Now he
had lost his only brother, and assignment deadlines loomed.
Frantic and not knowing what to do, he turned to kihêw waciston,
MacEwan's centre for Indigenous students.
Advisers told his teachers what happened and supported him as he
During a break from school, he spoke with elders and others in
his community about his loss and a path forward.
After taking a harder look at the criminal justice system, and
its effects on Indigenous communities like his, he realized he no
longer wanted to pursue policing.
"I don't want to put my own people away," he remembered
thinking at the time.
Soosay returned to school, where he earned high grades, volunteered,
earned dozens of scholarships and got involved with multiple student
He has a dream of starting his own scholarship fund and mentorship
program for youth in his home community one day.
"I want to give back in any way that I can and support Indigenous
youth and just give them the tools and resources so they can succeed
as well," he said