Chief Leroy Denny, of Eskasoni First Nation, has been serving his community for ten years and has been involved with his community through events and sports for as long as he can remember. With dreams of becoming a physical education teacher, Chief Denny graduated from Cape Breton University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts Community Studies degree. He then went on to receive his Bachelor of Education degree from St. Francis Xavier University.
“During my time at CBU, I felt very supported as a Mi’kmaw student,” Chief Denny says. “English was my second language and I did struggle at times during my studies but I had everything I needed at CBU to graduate, and to this day I am still grateful for that support.”
As Chief Denny settled in his home community of Eskasoni to teach, he was encouraged to run for band councilor, a role he won and spent six years in. Now, as Chief, he uses the fundamentals he gained from university to lead by example and continue to grow his community.
Now, Chief Denny glows with pride as he watches his daughter Lenita follow in his footsteps, graduating this past May also with a BACS degree from CBU. Before entering CBU, Lenita wasn’t certain which career path to pursue, when her father told her about the BACS program, his great experiences and where it led him. It was then that Lenita chose this path and never looked back. “I feel that my experience in the BACS program, as an Indigenous student, allowed me to fully express myself through my Mi’kmaq culture,” says Lenita. “I really enjoyed that and I’m really thankful for the knowledge I’ve gained through this experience.”
As Lenita graduates from the same university as her father, she feels very proud and thankful that he pushed her to never give up. When COVID-19 put the province in a state of emergency, Chief Leroy knew he needed to act to ensure the safety of the members of the community. He hired Lenita to work with the Eskasoni crisis centre during the COVID-19 response. “She was able to use her skills gained from her CBU education to help her community,” says Chief Denny. “From speaking with officials from all levels of government to communicating important messages to the community, she was there and ready to work.”
Now that Lenita has graduated, she is currently working with the goal of going into social work to continue to help her community in the future. “Take this degree, nurture it and it will take you places,” Chief Denny says about Lenita’s next journey. “Life does not come with a guide or a list of to-do’s, so you need to be confident in yourself and your skills.”
With Father’s Day on the horizon, Chief Denny reflects on how proud he is of the person Lenita has become, “I am so proud of her dedication to the community members of Eskasoni and also her work with the LGBTQ+ community here,” says Chief Denny. “She has taught me far more than I have ever taught her and she has changed me to be a better human. She is true to her spirit and her culture.”
Inspired by her father’s work ethic and commitment, this father’s day, Lenita wants to send this message to her father, “Wela’lin! I’m forever grateful for the teachings you’ve been passing down to me, it’s something that will be with me forever because knowledge is something no one can take away. It means the world to me. Kesalul.”