CNA grad excels with Student Emergency Fund

11/22/2018 3:43:38 PM

Denise Hickey, a CNA graduate of the Business Administration program, is now a CNA employee (Accounting Clerk II) at Bay St. George campus. The Student Emergency Fund helped her during one of the toughest times in her life.

Denise Hickey, shown with her mom who passed away after a cancer diagnosis, talks about how the Student Emergency Fund helped her in her time of need.

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STEPHENVILLE, NL - While you can’t always control what happens to you, you can control how you respond to it. This is something Denise Hickey strongly believes in.
“Staying positive is all I had, or the other option was to give up on my career,” recalled the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) graduate of the Business Administration program. “I did not want to do that, so I was determined to finish the program. My instructors and peers played a big role in supporting me, along with my family.”
The turning point
The major turning point in her life was when she was in her first year of studies; that’s when she found out her mother had cancer. The cancer took over quickly, and her mother passed away leaving Denise with having to plan an emergency trip to Montreal, and little money to pay for it.
“My mother was diagnosed with cancer and in two weeks she passed away. It was a one the toughest times of my life. I had to use all the money for an emergency trip to Montreal to visit my mother. I did not get to see her, but I attended the funeral.”
Her immediate family lived in Montreal and were able to take care of the necessary arrangements until she arrived. All of this happened on short notice, which forced her to make quick financial decisions.  
“At the time, I was receiving funding for education and I did not have a lot of money. I barely had enough to pay my bills. I had to use all I had and deal with the present day situation, while figuring out things as I went along.”
Hickey found out about the Student Emergency Fund from a friend, but kept hesitating to reach out even though she was struggling.
“I was very reluctant at first, as I had already taken care of the travel expenses to visit Montreal. However my friend kept pushing, and I reached out to the counsellor, got all the information, filled out forms and received the financial assistance. The Student Emergency Fund helped ease of the financial stress, as I did not have any extra money and that was a big help.”
Full Circle
Life has come a full circle in a short time she says. At the age of 44, with more than a decade of work experience under her belt, Hickey made the decision to change her career course and pursue the Business Administration program at CNA’s Bay St. George campus in 2016.
“For the most part of my career, I worked at a café that made custom chocolates in Montreal – it was a dream job,” she said. “They closed down and I moved to Iqaluit, Nunavut, where I worked as a front desk receptionist – a job I truly enjoyed, as I loved working with people. When I moved to Stephenville, I was choosing between working towards opening my own business and going back to school. Looking back on my decision, I have no regrets. Although at the time, it did not feel so right.”  
In spite of the challenges, Hickey says she always kept pushing herself forward.
“It was not an easy path, yet I am proud to have been through it all, and the Student Emergency Fund had a big role to play in my success today.”
After graduation, Hickey said she was very fortunate to get the opportunity to work in a summer job at CNA.
“I was new to the area, everyone was very supportive and I had an awesome time. I worked in the library and met some amazing people.”
Currently, she works at CNA as an Accounting Clerk II, and says it’s the best thing that has happened to her.
“I love my job, being able to work where I studied makes me feel proud.”
She encourages other students who are facing a lot of challenges, or are finding it difficult to cope with any stress, to ask for help.
“I just want to say that people don’t judge you for seeking help,” said Hickey, who is eager to pay it forward. “There are a lot of resources available. Just reach out. I am thankful to all the people who contribute to the Student Emergency Fund. Without your generosity, I would not have excelled in my career goals and become independent with a job to help support me and my family.”
To learn more about Giving Tuesday, Nov. 27, and how you can contribute to the Student Emergency Fund, visit:

Media Contact:
Michelle Jesso
Communications Specialist
College of the North Atlantic