(COURTESY MONTANA DIABO)
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Unprecedented is something we’ve heard a lot this year, but for 29-year-old Kahnawa’kehró:non Montana Diabo, this word means something a little more positive.
In January 2022, Diabo will become the first-ever veterinarian born and raised in Kahnawake.
Unlike many young adults navigating the difficult and existential world of professionalism and career decision-making, Diabo cannot remember a time when she did not want to be a veterinarian.
Not only is she now close to obtaining that goal, she continues to dream big, just like she did as an animal-loving little girl.
“I want to go back home to Kahnawake and open my own veterinary clinic,” she said.
Montana’s long educational journey is a great analogy for her resilience and perseverance. Immediately after her high school education, she applied to the Vanier College Animal Health Technology program.
Three years later, she began working at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), in Montreal.
After attending an open house for Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts and Nevis, she decided to apply.
“I instantly fell in love with the school, and I knew I wanted to go there,” said Diabo.
First, she needed to complete certain prerequisite courses in biology, which she took at Concordia University, while simultaneously continuing her work at the SPCA. Finally when she was all set to apply to Ross, and she was accepted seamlessly.
“When I showed them my transcripts and my CV, they were impressed!” she said.
Diabo’s excitement was palpable. “It was my chance to follow my dreams and to go on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to study and live on a Carribean island,” she explained.
Accompanied by her excitement came the reality of tuition costs. Although Diabo received many scholarships, she explained that she couldn’t have done it on her own.
“I don’t think I would be where I am, if it wasn’t for my mom’s continuous efforts to hold various fundraisers for me,” she said gratefully. “And for the community’s help and generosity to help me reach my goal.”
The unconditional support of her parents Deneen Dearhouse and Ricky Diabo, along with her siblings Taylor, Blake, Cara and Sharlann, have been a guiding light as she continues to navigate this challenging path.
“Everyone always posts about how happy and proud they are for me, and it’s exactly what I need to get through this demanding program.”
Despite hurricane season – leading to loss of power and water, and living in a completely different environment than she is used to – Diabo is loving this unique experience and is grateful for every moment.
Understandably, the transition to St. Kitts was a little difficult as she left familiarity and took a huge leap. In time, she adjusted to her new life, and will miss it when it’s time to come home.
As always, the community of Kahnawake has helped Diabo feel safe and capable throughout her academia.
“Whether it’s participating in various fundraisers or sending me words of encouragement, I appreciate it all,” she said. And soon, so will the animals!