Watching a loved one graduate from university is a proud moment, but for Jocelyne and Randy Robinson, the pride will be twofold as the mother and son graduate from the University of British Columbia a day apart.
Randy, 31, who once worked as a janitor scrubbing toilets, is graduating from the Peter A. Allard School of Law. Jocelyne, a sculptor and single mother who raised seven children in East Vancouver, is graduating with a PhD in education.
The Robinsons are Algonquin from the Timiskaming First Nation in Quebec. They share a strong commitment to use their degrees to help improve the lives of other indigenous peoples.
“We’re overrepresented in the criminal justice system, but underrepresented as lawyers,” said Randy, who spent time during law school working at the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic in the Downtown Eastside. “Growing up, I saw the inequities that exist for indigenous peoples. I wanted to become a lawyer to give them a voice, so they have that perspective and advocacy of a fellow indigenous person in court.”
For Jocelyne, pursuing a PhD was motivated by her experiences in the classroom as a high school educator. Her PhD work focused on ways to attract more indigenous students to careers in math and science.
“My goal is to leave a legacy behind for the next generation,” she said. “It wasn’t that long ago Aboriginal Peoples couldn’t go to university or practice law. Or even leave the reserve. It’s pretty incredible that we’re here.”
Randy’s graduation ceremony is May 25. Jocelyne’s is May 26. They’ll graduate together in a special ceremony for indigenous students at UBC’s First Nations Longhouse on May 28.