When a four-year degree program is more than an education


A childhood in foster care taught Jenna Mazur about social work and constant change. With that experience, and a UVic BSW, she’s remade her life with stability, love and the credentials to help others who’ve grown up in care.


Jenna Mazur, BSW graduate

“The learning I discovered at UVic’s School of Social Work made me want to make my life better. I was taught how to identify my values and why that was so important to my wellbeing. I really enjoyed this learning. It was incredibly cool. No, better than that; it was highly therapeutic.”

Meet Jenna Mazur, 27, a 2019 Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) graduate specializing in Indigenous Child Welfare. As an Indigenous child who grew up in the foster care system, it’s fair to say Jenna studied her practice firsthand throughout her childhood.

Having lived in many different homes since the age of three, she says, “There is no stability in your life when your house, parents, siblings, schools, and cities change repeatedly.” She would become used to chaos.

Prior to starting her studies, Jenna and her husband were pregnant, homeless and camping in Mount Douglas Park. Their marriage would end shortly after their daughter was born, yet, Jenna figured out a way to carry on and complete her degree.

Fast forward to UVic’s November 2019 convocation ceremony and Jenna is thinking a million different thoughts as her name is announced and she is about to cross that essential stage.

“I couldn’t believe I was there,” she recalls. “To have made it, to have completed this degree program, to have earned good marks. I was crying a lot but it was probably the happiest I’ve felt in a long while.” 

From the Spuzzum Reserve of the Nlaka'pamux Nation in BC’s Fraser Canyon region, Jenna did not grow up on reserve nor does she speak the language. She was placed in foster care as a toddler, along with her four siblings. “We were separated except for my little sister and I.” While she keeps in touch with her sister and younger brother, she has lost touch with her older brothers. 

She recalls having lived in some miserable homes but lights up when talking about her second most recent foster family who she lived with for six years. “They provided an amazing home. I visit often and my daughter joins them for a weekly dinner. It’s a huge benefit to have this family in my life.” 

Jade Stangeland, a youth worker, was also influential. She invited Jenna to share her story with prospective parents considering adoption. To be heard, to be listened to, says Jenna, was the inspiration for her pursuing higher education.

“My personal story is traumatic,” says Jenna, “but Jade helped me prove it had value. That’s when I knew social work was the right career for me.” 

Jade, now a case worker with Alberta’s Ministry of Children’s Services, remembers Jenna with great fondness. “She was smart and eloquent beyond her years and made a powerful impression on people. Many requested follow-up sessions with her.”

And, yet, Jenna’s Indigenous identity remained a blank spot. “I didn’t want to be Indigenous,” she says. “It took a while for me to see my Indigenous heritage as a strength. Many kids I met in practicums have that same background -- they are Indigenous but not living Indigenous lives or in Indigenous homes. They feel like they don’t truly belong anywhere. I can relate to that.”

Jenna says education would become her stepping-stone out of a life of needing and into a life of learning, self-care, and giving to others. She fought like a warrior, she says, to finally claim and cherish her life. “I have great inner strength to do what I have done.”


Jenna Mazur, BSW graduate from the class of 2019, with her partner David, left, and with daughter Megan, right.

Jenna Mazur, BSW graduate from the class of 2019, with her partner David, left, and with daughter Megan, right.


Now settled in Abbotsford with Megan and her partner, David, a professional artist, they make a happy home. Living in the same city as her most successful foster family, Jenna remains close friends with their daughters.

“I'm a different kind of warrior now,” she says, referring to a tattoo on her arm that once held an image of a broken heart. “I had it turned into a dreamcatcher with mountains and Northern Lights in the background. The mountains are the difficult things I had to work through early in life. The Northern Lights are the beauty and magic I see now in the world around me.”

Jenna, David and Megan are expecting a new baby to arrive this September.


(All photos provided by Jenna Mazur)


At UVic, just about every other book I read explained how Indigenous women ranked at the bottom of the ladder in modern society. Here I am, an Indigenous woman who grew up in care, abused, low income, and a single mom. My studies helped me realize what it would take for me to get past all that. - Jenna Mazur, 2019 BSW graduate