When Rachel Beaulieu, along with Anthony Desjarlais, won the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC) Science Fair in high school, she never imagined that she would be working for the organization 11 years later.
Beaulieu recently joined MFNERC as a multimedia assistant attached to the Publishing and Communications Unit and is only now realizing her longstanding connection to the organization.
Since 2003 MFNERC has been hosting the annual Manitoba First Nations Science Fair, to encourage student participation in science and create interest in science-related careers.
Beaulieu and Desjarlais, who represented the Isaac Beaulieu Memorial School in Sandy Bay First Nation, won both the Manitoba Hydro Award and Senior High Prairie Genome Award for their project on Genetic Variation in First Nations Populations. Their project, which surveyed several First Nations populations to determine whether there were certain traits more common than in the general population, was awarded first place out of a field of 155 projects from 240 students.
“Coming from a small rural community, we were just excited about getting the opportunity to participate in the science fair in Winnipeg and to meet the other students,” Beaulieu said. “We were actually a little surprised when we won.”
Winning the science fair meant that the duo would also compete in the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF) in Vancouver, compliments of MFNERC. Her trip to Vancouver would be the first time she had ventured so far away from home and Beaulieu recalled the culture shock of visiting the metropolitan city.
“I was a little scared. Vancouver was so much different from Winnipeg, which at the time was the only big city I knew,” she explained.” I remember just wanting to go home. I think my nerves got the best of me and we didn’t do as well at the CWSF.”
Fast forward a few years and Beaulieu, whose childhood dream was to become a clinical scientist would switch gears after spending a day at the Assiniboine Community College in Brandon. She fell in love with their Media Production program and decided to enroll.
As fate would have it, after graduation she worked for a media production company, which was contracted to produce several projects for MFNERC’s Research and Development Unit. Beaulieu worked closely with researchers Andy Thomas and Valerie Bighetty. She must have left a lasting impression on them, because when the organization introduced the Publishing and Communications Unit in 2013, Thomas encouraged her to apply for a position in multimedia.
At that point in her life, she wasn’t ready to leave her workplace, so she didn’t apply. A multimedia assistant position was introduced this year and Thomas again thought of Beaulieu, who was now freelancing. He had lost contact with her and couldn’t even remember her last name. His colleague was able to track her down on Facebook and messaged her about the job, on the day of the deadline.
She was chosen for an interview, but later worried that she had left a bad impression with the panel after nervously spilling her coffee on the desk. As there seems to be a mystical connection that binds Beaulieu to MFNERC, she got the position.
Beaulieu started just in time to assist in producing “Our Tomorrows, Today: Wahbung 1971,” a documentary reflecting on how “Wahbung: Our Tomorrows” was a catalyst for First Nations peoples’ right to self-determination. The film will be sent to film festivals and potentially be broadcast on Canadian TV. She’s excited about upcoming projects and is looking forward to learning a great deal in her new role.
“I didn’t even realize that I’ve been connected to the organization for such a long time,” she said. “I’m so happy to be part of an organization that is helping our children to realize their true potential. I’m just glad that MFNERC chose me. I know they are not going to regret it.”