Recipients selected for Women of Inspiration Education Award

Fort McMurray (September 8, 2020)—Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude Canada are honoured to announce the three women who will receive the Women of Inspiration Education Award are:

Mariam Arain for the Barb Jewers Memorial Scholarship

Destiny Smorong for the Elsie Yanik Memorial Scholarship

Reagan Morris for the Ann Dort-MacLean Scholarship

“Syncrude is pleased to see the achievements of women who have made a profound impact in the Wood Buffalo region. This is why we are proud to support these scholarships as part of our ongoing commitment to the Women of Inspiration,” said Colleen Kearney, VP Human Resources.

The scholarships have been named after two former Women of Inspiration. The Barb Jewers Memorial Scholarship is awarded to an applicant who demonstrates a commitment to volunteerism and community activism.

The Elsie Yanik Memorial Scholarship is awarded to an applicant with demonstrated commitment to Indigenous community engagement.

The third scholarship honours the legacy of Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta’s founder Ann Dort-MacLean, who retired in 2018. This scholarship is awarded to an applicant with a demonstrated passion for girls/youth empowerment and gender equality.

Arain has been selected for the Barb Jewers Memorial Scholarship for extensive community volunteering engagement in developing and using youth’s ‘voice’ – the core value of what Girls Inc. experience is all about. Arain’s community activism focuses on inclusion and youth empowerment. This includes speaking at key events like human rights conference and World Hijab Day, assisting community organizations like Multicultural Association Wood Buffalo and Fort McMurray Food Bank and serving on the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Youth. Learning from the peer youth volunteers, Arain has learned the diverse needs and solutions around youth in the community – such as Indigenous art, music/songs and social media messaging – and brought such voices to the Mayor’s attention. “As an accountant I am pursuing a career stereotyped for men and I hope to be a trail-blazing woman in the business world… As a youth volunteer, I have been fortunate to share my ideas at the 2017 Human Rights conference, as well as, independent presentations for Youth Voices work to RMWB Mayor and council,” said Arain. Through these experiences, I learned that bringing positive change is facilitated by having the motivation, leadership skills and credibility to reinforce your actions. A Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting will allow me to pursue my passion for business while developing the required skills, and credibility to continue making positive changes as a bold, female, community and business leader.”

The Elsie Yanik Memorial Scholarship goes to Smorong as an Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) young woman who engages deeply with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit. This includes volunteering with the Full Circle Mentoring program run by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Wood Buffalo – and after school program where children from various grades learn about different aspects of the Indigenous culture. The purpose and motives behind this volunteer work is demonstrated through Smorong’s strong and clear goal, which is to “contribute back to the region and to other First Nations individuals” by majoring in human resources under the discipline of business administration. Smorong hopes to foster Indigenous entrepreneurship and business relations through Indigenous talent development/acquisition.

“My career objectives once I complete the Bachelor of Business Administration is to work for an Indigenous business within the Wood Buffalo area and to hopefully one day start my own business….Working for an Indigenous business within the Wood Buffalo area is important to me, because I am originally from Fort Chipewyan…Currently the community of Fort Chipewyan has a new and thriving school system which is a giant step towards the right direction of ensuring that Indigenous people are receiving equal opportunity in education…I would personally be honoured to be a part of the next step where individuals might be looking to start their careers, or looking to change them,” said Smorong.

As an inspiring young woman who advocates for empowering the 2SLGBTQI+ youth and gender equality, Morris is awarded the Ann Dort-MacLean Scholarship. Morris has involved in dynamic range of extracurricular activities, from sports, through performing arts to extensive community activism, including the Big Gay Pancake Breakfast (founder), YMM Pride (member) and GSA (Gender & Sexual Orientation Alliance: President). Morris shares how Morris’ own lived experience and struggles around gender-based bullying has shaped the aspiration and career goal Morris has today – to be a teacher. And Morris envisions an equitable and safe society – which is Girls Inc.’s mission.

“As a Lesbian woman, some of the most isolating times of my life were the years spent in the school system. Those around you do not want to be bullied, so they are hesitant to befriend you if you are different. Being out and proud set me up to be lonely, but I always had my teachers,” said Morris. “My choice to become a teacher is solely based on how my teachers helped me survive the loneliness of high school, and I am hoping to be that for someone…My biggest goal is to show queer students that you can grow up and be happy. Having positive role models is wonderful. But for queer youth, it is not very accessible… If I can retire knowing that I made students feel safe in their own identities I will have completed my career objectives.”

This year, we have received compelling 27 applications. Here at Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta, we believe that the empowerment starts with education – being able to make your own decisions, have control over them and transform them for social change. We cannot wait to see how Mariam, Destiny and Regan further inspire and empower girls in our community. They truly are the agents of change,” said Nanase Tonda, Executive Director of Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta.

Over the last seven years, Girls Inc. and Syncrude have assisted 21 young women with the award as they pursue their post-secondary education and career goals. These women are role-models for younger girls in our community, encouraging them to become the future leaders of an equitable society who are strong, smart and bold. Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta would not be able to recognize these women without the support of Syncrude, we are grateful for their partnerships over the years.

Submissions for the three scholarships will open in June 2021.

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