Commerce grad proves it’s never too late to turn life around
Calgarian Kira Steele earns Bachelor of Commerce after battles with drug and alcohol abuse
Kira Steele (Bachelor of Commerce ’23) spent the better part of a decade studying at 3 different schools trying to earn a degree, but alcohol and drug addiction always stood in her way.
It took getting sober and taking advantage of Athabasca University’s (AU) open, online learning model for Steele to turn her life around. Today, the Calgarian is a proud university graduate and community builder who’s working to help others overcome similar demons.
“I am thankful for Athabasca University because without AU I wouldn’t have got my degree,” Steele explains.
Addiction battles started in teens
Steele’s battles with addiction started in her early teens when she began drinking, experimented with cocaine and, later, abused both. Coming from a family with generations of mental health and addiction issues—her father died when she was 9 years old—she knew she needed to make changes. She quit drinking 6 years ago.
“I got sober because I knew I was going to die. I was putting myself in danger every time I drank.”
Sobriety was the turning point in her life, but after years of failed attempts to earn a university degree, she found herself at an educational crossroads.
“I am thankful for Athabasca University because without AU I wouldn’t have gotten my degree.”– Kira Steele (Bachelor of Commerce ’23)
Removing barriers to learning
Only AU offered the flexibility, affordability, and accessibility that allowed her to pursue her career goals of working in addiction recovery, advocacy, and human rights.
As an open university, Steele’s prior academic record didn’t matter. And the flexibility of the online Bachelor of Commerce program allowed her to study from anywhere, at her own pace. That allowed her to pursue other pursuits, such as founding the Boring Little Girls Club.
For nearly 5 years, the Calgary-based club provided a community of sober women, trans, and binary folks who support each other and have fun without alcohol or drugs. Steele landed on the club name after a former friend called her attempts to get sober “boring.”
“I was searching for support and knew that if I was feeling this way, someone else was too.”
Bright future thanks to AU
Steele also works as a human resources manager for AAWEAR—Alberta Addicts Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly—a harm-reduction organization that supports people experiencing houselessness and addiction.
Her work with AAWEAR reflects one of Steele’s mantras: “The more empathy we have, the more change we can make.”
Now that she’s earned a bachelor’s degree, Steele plans to pursue a Master of Business Administration and, eventually, a law degree so she can support human rights and help domestic abuse survivors. “All the things I have a huge passion for.”
After years of struggle and more than a few low points, Steele proved it’s never too late to pursue a dream. The road hasn’t been easy, but thanks to AU her future has never been brighter.
“I love this school. It’s given me the opportunity to do everything.”