“I have a lot on my plate,” states Amberlea Parker. “Time. Time is the biggest thing. I need an education.”
Students usually cite time management as the most difficult part of post-secondary education. As a student pursuing a double major, Amberlea understands this better than most.
“I applied a year ago to drama and pre-education because I wanted to be a drama teacher,” says Amberlea. “And with some events that happened throughout the year it occurred to me that not only is drama my passion, but women and gender studies is as well.”
Like many others who end up modifying their majors, Amberlea was inspired by a particular professor in her first year.
“I took a women and gender studies 1000 class with Dr. Trina Filan, and she really inspired me,” Amberlea explains. “She really brought out the best, the hopefulness and the activist in me.”
It was after this that Amberlea began to pursue a double major in both theatre and women and gender studies.
“People have always asked me how those two go together, and those two go together fantastically well!” says Amberlea. “There is a lot of underground and regular feminist theatre. . . . It’s a beautiful thing.”
Despite how busy she is pursuing a double major, Amberlea, who also works a part-time job, is heavily involved in extracurricular projects, including local activism. She volunteers for CKXU, the Campus Women’s Centre, the ULSU PRIDE Centre and, most recently, she co-directed a local production of The Vagina Monologues—the nexus where Amberlea’s passions for activism, women’s studies and theatre collide.
“It’s a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls,” she says of the project. “It generates broader attention to the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation and sex slavery.”
“You have to reclaim language to reclaim power,” says Amberlea. “Vagina is such a dirty word in our society, and we are reclaiming that word. A vagina is not a weak thing.” She broadly smiles as she adds: “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Amberlea’s school, activism and extracurriculars aren’t the only things that keep her busy. “I’m also a mother to three kids.”
Amberlea has a boy and two girls, with ages ranging from two to six years old. Although some would see a distinction between parenting and activism, Amberlea recognizes that they’re simply two sides to the same battle.
“[Parenting's] not just a passion; it’s a lifestyle that I lead,” says Amberlea. “With two of [my children] being girls, I want to be able to change things so that eventually when they become of age they have a world that is easier than the one that I lived in.”
Amberlea understands that getting an education not only affects her own success, but also the future success of her children.
“I was previously married and didn’t have the chance to be a post-secondary student. I graduated high school and had my first child at nineteen. So I wasn’t afforded that opportunity. Now that I’m single again and a parent of three I know how important an education is.”
This nonstop lifestyle does have its difficulties however. “The biggest difficulty is making sure I have enough time to do my assignments and to excel as a student while making sure that I don’t lose my passions, such as activism and changing Lethbridge for the better, as well as being a mother to my children.”
Her relentless schedule hasn’t affected her delightful sense of humour though. “I’m very appreciative of Android phones and their calendars.” Amberlea laughs. “Because I calendar everything.”
While most students feel overwhelmed when their responsibilities begin to pile up, Amberlea has learned to embrace the struggle. “I feel like I am honouring pretty much every aspect of myself with these responsibilities, and these things I take on.” Sometimes I’m overwhelmed, but I don’t regret it. Not in the least bit.”
In fact, if Amberlea has anything to say about her life, it’s nothing but words of love. “I don’t regret being a student; I love bettering myself and educating myself so I can help others. I don’t regret being a parent; I love my children more than life itself. I don’t regret working because I love people. I love being around people, so working at the Zoo is not a bad thing.” She then adds with a smile, “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Amberlea is nothing but exactly who she wants to be: herself. And that’s a beautiful thing.