An eye to the future

Literacy, Education & Employment

Scholarships help electrical engineering grad Chanse Kornik achieve his goals.
Chanse Kornik and his son Braxon.

Chanse Kornik is driven. At 28-years-old, he has played college basketball, led the University of Manitoba Aboriginal Students’ Association, and graduated with an electrical engineering degree. And he’s a single parent to son Braxon. His passion for learning and self-improvement has made all this possible, and the scholarship support he’s received has helped, too.

Mr. Kornik started setting goals at a young age. As a Grade 7 kid growing up in Dauphin, Man. he was naturally athletic, except when it came to basketball. But he didn’t let his lack of skills on the court get in the way of success.

“I really enjoyed the sport and it kinda bugged me that I wasn’t very good at it. I said, ‘I’m going to go play college [basketball].’ I literally trained every day, all through high school, with everything – vertical programs, weightlifting, shooting. There were summers when I put up 500 shots a day on the courts.”

After high school, he was drafted to Mayville State in North Dakota. Once there, he set his sights on getting even better.

“When I got there, I was probably middle of the pack for the freshmen talent, and I started training with the best players on our team. I’m a firm believer if you want to be the best you got to surround yourself with the best. When I first started training with those guys I’d just get annihilated. Then as months went by… a huge progression took place.”

He took away some important life lessons from the experience.

“It taught me to love the process no matter where you are in it. You could be the most talented, the least talented, but if you put in hard work, keep focused, build yourself a plan, then you can accomplish it,” he says. “I used that when studying engineering – focus on what I wanted to do, build a plan, put in the hours. And for the next goal I want in life, I will just keep applying that. You keep getting better and smarter with each iteration of goals you set.”

After a couple years at the college level, Mr. Kornik decided he had achieved his goal. He came to Winnipeg and enrolled at the University of Manitoba. He considered studying dentistry or law, but found his calling when he took Introduction to Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“I remember thinking, ‘I wish there was a degree that would teach me to think for myself, problem solve, and have an inventor mentality; that was engineering, it just took me awhile to figure that out.”

During his time at U of M, he also decided to learn more about his Métis culture. He got involved with the University of Manitoba Aboriginal Students’ Association (UMSA), eventually becoming President. He was also involved with the Engineering Access Program (ENGAP), which supports students of Indigenous ancestry who are studying Engineering.

“You keep getting better and smarter with each iteration of goals you set.”

Chanse Kornik, Kiwanis Indigenous Bursary Award recipient

“I always struggled with identity because I was in this weird middle ground. I couldn’t hang out with my caucasian friends because I was too Native. But then for my Native friends, I was too white,” he says. “My parents came from an abusive background so they kind of just sheltered me and my sister from their families. We kind of just developed our own culture.”

Mr. Kornik graduated this spring with a degree in electrical engineering – an accomplishment even more impressive because he is a single father to his five-year-old son, Braxon. While in school, their days were long – Mr. Kornik frequently got by on five hours of sleep. But he was creative with his time management to ensure he could be present for his son.

“I’d have to pick and choose what classes I’d go to and then teach myself because it was just not enough time to attend all the classes. Labs are mandatory, so you have to attend your labs. You have to do assignments. Half the time I was literally teaching myself out of a textbook.”

While at the U of M, Mr. Kornik received scholarships to help cover the costs of his education, including the Kiwanis Indigenous Bursary Award. Read more about this award on page 28.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do a university degree without the contributions of these scholarship organizations. It’s so hard to just pay for a basic life, never mind university,” he says. “Without scholarships we would have had an empty Christmas tree or [no] birthday presents for my son… It just helps so much. There’s months where you’re afraid about how you are going to pay rent or even put food on the table.”

“Sometimes you’d open up your envelope and you’d be in tears because you’re like, it’s either this miracle or you are dropping out.”

Now that Mr. Kornik has achieved his goal of earning his engineering degree, he’s spending time deciding what he’d like to set his sights on next. While a student, he worked for Motor Coach Industries and he’d like to do something similar now. Whatever he decides on, he’s looking forward to spending time with his family.

“A lot of my focus this summer is going to my son, that’s really important for me…. I just want to narrow down the focus and go towards that with my son.”

This story is featured in the Summer 2018 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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