Wednesday, December 8, 2010

40 after 40: Suzette Amaya


Growing up near Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and on the Tsulquate Reserve, Suzette Amaya was eye witness to gang violence, poverty and addiction. She also had her own share of sorrows: the sudden death of her father left her mother struggling to raise her singlehandedly; as well, Suzette was the victim of abuse, and was often discriminated against for being Aboriginal.

But the Kwakwak wakw-Cree-Nisga-Coast Salish youth never lost heart. She vowed to one day help single mothers fleeing abuse – and to work with young First Nations people to build their confidence and help them realize their dreams.

Inspired by the RCMP officers who had helped prosecute the abusers in her life, Suzette came to Douglas in 1995 to study Criminology. Five years later she graduated with a diploma in Criminology, an Associate of Arts Degree – and a desire to give back.


Suzette has been a support worker at Downtown Eastside women and children’s shelters for eight years. She is also the creator and producer/host for the award-winning ThinkNDN show, on Co-op Radio, and the hip hop host of the CBC Radio 3 show Ab-Originals. She is manager of the award-winning pop artist Joey Stylez, and a professional photographer, traditional dancer, events coordinator and stylist.

When not traveling with Joey Stylez, she crisscrosses the country with her business, Samaya Entertainment, facilitating workshops on motivation and confidence-building for youth and adults in Aboriginal communities. In 2007-2008 she was chosen as one of the National Aboriginal Role Models with the National Aboriginal Health Organization.

“I went from leaving the reserve as a skater punk faced with addictions and low self-esteem to becoming a confident, strong-willed, secure, and hardworking person,” Suzette says. “My time spent at Douglas College has helped me in so many ways. The personal growth in building confidence, esteem, and valuable knowledge gained has been very relevant to my career choice in working in the DTES.”

“I thank the instructors who believed in me and encouraged me to succeed.”

Learn more about Suzette on MySpace.

40 after 40 is a series showcasing our amazing grads and employees in celebration of our 40th anniversary. Check back every Wednesday and Friday for another inspiring story. See more about our 40th on our Anniversary page