By Breanne Massey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A Mount Royal University (MRU) student has recently joined the Akisqnuk First Nation for an internship.

Justin Grosso, 20, a student in the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with a focus in economics, politics and policy, has been working with the Housing Department at the Akisqnuk First Nation since early-September.

“I want to use it as my undergraduate degree to law school,” explained Gross, noting that the pandemic may hinder his ability to complete a bachelor’s degree in the typical four years because courses are currently being offered remotely.

He remains optimistic about targeting a five-year completion from MRU and has enjoyed learning about payment requisitions, administration, procurement as well as the rules and regulations of reserve lands.

“My uncle who just got made the interim senior office administrator told me about the position. It seemed like a really nice change of pace and a change of scenery,” said Grosso. “I’ve been working in restaurants for a long time, so I liked the idea of working in an office and having a more methodical thought-process and being able to learn more. I feel like I do my best job when I’m learning. It’s always great to be working in the community.”

Grosso was intrigued by completing training to take inventory in homes throughout the community during the Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT) inspections that were recently completed.

“We’ve been doing this really interesting WETT program,” he explained, noting that part of the internship includes ASSET management training to take an inventory of the household items in the community.

“It’s been really nice for me to understand the workings of what heats houses, the upkeep and maintenance that’s required on a home, what a homeowner should do, what you should hire somebody to do, so if I get my own house, I feel really comfortable now, knowing how housing works.”

While Grosso had been living with family outside of the Columbia Valley for several years, he was eager to have an opportunity to return at the age of 10 and to gain the opportunity to network within the community as well as with some of his distant relatives.

However, Grosso and his peer Bobby Morgan complimented each other by providing different strengths to the project and their community.

“We are grateful for Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation funding to hire two Akisqnuk Members as youth housing interns,” said Dale Shudra, Akisqnuk First Nation’s Housing Department’s manager. “Their youthful exuberance has brought a welcome energy to the Housing Department and its activities. There are a variety of Housing-related needs. Each of the interns has different interests and is having a different experience.”

But what stood out the most about Grosso to Shudra is his ability to adapt and work toward helping the nation plan work with contractors at the Akisqnuk First Nation.

“Justin is a strong communicator and organizer,” said Shudra. “His time has been spent primarily on administrative tasks — organizing contractors on projects, planning, and communicating with Members. These activities will serve Justin well when he returns to his post-secondary studies.”

Grosso expects to complete his internship by Dec. 18, 2020.

“I will be going back to school,” he said, hoping to complete a BA then apply to law school. “I’ll be doing it remotely from Calgary and staying here in Invermere.”