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Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta Women of Inspiration Series Presented by Syncrude

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Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta as part of their Women of Inspiration program offer three, $5,000 scholarships to women in the RMWB to help them achieve their dreams. This program is sponsored by Syncrude Canada who recognizes the value of education. Each year the selection process is difficult as we have so many bright, energetic women. The scholarships bring the women of inspiration program full circle – with each month celebrating one local woman from the RMWB that is a positive role model for youth and who has in her own way made the community a better place to live and play. These scholarships are our way of encouraging the next generation of Women of Inspiration. This year’s scholarship winners are as follows...

Frances Jean

Mrs. Jean relocated to Fort McMurray in 1967 when her husband Bernard took a job with G.C.O.S. (Suncor) She quickly did an assessment of her new community and combined her passions for reading and gardening and started her first business venture with her husband – Jeans Gifts and Stationary. 

The store sold books, bedding plants, canoes, fine china, crystal and office supplies and much more. The population of McMurray at the time was 1500 people. She would travel to Fort Chipewyan to provide them with stationary and any other items they might need. This store remained a fixture in Fort McMurray for many years and many people enjoyed the experience of visiting and buying gifts in Jean’s Gifts and Stationary. Mrs. Jean then undertook to publish the community’s first newspaper – the McMurray Courier as the reporter, writer and editor. Mrs. Jean opened the doors for young girls and women today by challenging the male dominated attitudes of the early 60’s. She was invited to attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting to do a story on Walter Hill. Once she had taken photos and made notes, she was required to leave the meeting as women were not permitted to attend. After mulling over this inequity Mrs. Jean wrote a scathing editorial in which she chastised the Chamber for its exclusion of women. Her rationale being that if she was good enough to do a story, she was good enough to be a Chamber member. Shortly thereafter Mrs. Jean, Alice Haxton and Grace Defoe became the first female members of the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce in 1972. Mrs. Jean became the first female Director of the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce. Fast forward 43 years and it is evident that this accomplishment laid the grounds for women of today to be thriving members of the community and the Chamber and contribute greatly to the success and stability of business within the region. Mrs. Jeans experiences covering the male only council meetings was at first daunting as she was the only female reporter in the smoke filled council chamber with Sam Hardin as the Mayor. She persevered and today it is not Girls Incorporated® of Northern Alberta Page 2 of 3 uncommon to have female reporters in all aspect of the media. Mrs. Jean would say that she was unaware that she was overcoming gender barriers, to her she was just doing what needed doing and demonstrating a strong Northern sense of adventure. 

Another successful business venture for Mrs. Jean was the Print Shop which was on Franklin Ave. and which operated for 30 years. To this day Mrs. Jean puts in a 50 hour work week at the City Centre Car Wash and manages her property holding through City Centre Group. On her 80th birthday she launched her book “More Than Oil: Trappers, Traders and Settlers of Northern Alberta”. She is up every morning by 5 am and is busy baking for family and friends and a loaf of her homemade bread is coveted by many. 

Mrs. Jeans community volunteerism includes being on the Board of Directors of Heritage Park, she was a member of the Fort McMurray street naming committee, served on the Board of the Fort McMurray Airport Authority and was a Director for the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ) committee. 

Mrs. Jean has been acknowledged by being the recipient of: Alberta’s Retail of the Year Award; 1994 Alberta’s Small Businessperson of the Year; 1997 Keyano Distinguished Citizen Award and the Rotary Club of Fort McMurray Integrity Award. 

One of her all- time favourite adventures was to travel to England as an invitee to Buckingham Palace to have Tea with the Queen in the Royal Gardens. This once in a lifetime event still brings a smile to her face. Mrs. Jean was acknowledged in Parliament by her son Brian Jean – the MP for the Athabasca riding. Brian commended his mother as being “a trail blazer, a world traveler, a master cook and baker, who continues to work 50 plus hours per week and is the most honest person I know. She also works tirelessly to serve her family, her community, and Canada.” 

Having spent almost a half a century in Fort McMurray, Mrs. Jean epitomizes the core values of Strong, Smart and Bold values that have inspired the Women of Inspiration Award. She is truly inspiring to all she comes into contact with. 

Girls Inc. Northern Alberta and Syncrude will honour Mrs. Jean and 11 other nominees, at the Women of Inspiration Celebration which will take place in June 2016


Carna MacEachern

Ms. Carna MacEachern has been a resident of Fort McMurray since 1979.Carna earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 1974 from Mount Allison University and her Bachelor of Education from Mount Allison University in 1979. As a lifelong learner, she continued her post- secondary education by earning her Masters of Business Administration in 1999 through the University of Alberta. She worked on her MBA while working full time as the Guidance Counselor at Westwood Community High School. 

As a teacher in the public school system for nearly 30 years, Ms. MacEachern taught math and science to thousands of students, shaping minds and impacting many, many lives. During her teaching career, Carna helped many students and families overcome barriers. She developed and implemented programs for students with special needs, including learning disabilities, physical disabilities and behavioural issues. 

Over the years, Carna has provided leadership for others through her countless hours of volunteer and board work. In keeping with her strong belief in education, Carna served on the Keyano College Board of Governors both as a Public Member and as the chair of the Education Committee. Carna also serves as a mentor for the Leadership Wood Buffalo program – a program designed to help participants acquire both a broader understanding of the critical issues affecting our region and the leadership skills necessary to resolve them. Through her time as a mentor, Carna has helped to highlight the opportunities and challenges we face with the RMWB. 

The Northern Lights Health Foundation is another organization near and dear to Ms. MacEachern. Carna has given countless hours fundraising and helping plan special events. 

As the Executive Director of the Wood Buffalo Association, Carna worked with the Board to build Girls Incorporated® Of Northern Alberta Page 2 of 2 stronger relationships with the First Nations and Metis communities within the region. Carna believes strongly in the importance of incorporating Traditional Environmental Knowledge into environmental monitoring within the region. Carna’s personable and open approach to life has allowed her to cultivate meaningful relationships with individuals and communities and has resulted in a positive and proactive sense of community. Carna is an inspiration to many women and girls that have had the opportunity of knowing her. As an exceptional leader who is impassioned about her work and community she is an inspiration to all and is a perfect example of a strong, smart and bold woman. 


Elena Gould

Elena is a proud member of the Bigstone Cree Nation. Elena’s interest in promoting her culture and helping people is evident in her professional and private life. As the manager for Aboriginal Relations for the RMWB, her priorities include the management of First Nations and Metis community engagement, the First Nation infrastructure cost sharing agreements regarding infrastructure projects and service provision, development of a municipal policy on First Nations and Metis consultation. The latest addition to this busy portfolio is the new initiative of the Regional Aboriginal Connection (Urban Aboriginal Strategy initiative). All of these duties keep Elena busy, be it in the board room or in the communities, listening to concerns and helping to find solutions. She enjoys her community visits and genuinely takes great pride in listening to the stories of all community members. Elena works tirelessly on addressing homelessness within the region. She is a positive team leader who mentors those younger or less experienced and appreciates being mentored by others wiser and more experienced. 

Elena has also worked for the Provincial government as a program analyst (First Nations Development Fund) as well as being the National Aboriginal Day Coordinator. In this position, she coordinated the grant program for this one day of recognition of the contribution to Canada of Aboriginal people. This national day celebrates the richness of the culture and encourages all to enjoy the history of Canada’s First People.

Ms. Gould enjoyed her time working for the University of Alberta in a variety of roles, from being a research assistant in the Cree Language Program to being a seminar leader for the faculty of Native Studies; she thrived on the ability to learn and focused on how to put her learning to practical usage to help her community. 

Elena manages to squeeze community work into her hectic work schedule. She is a steering committee Girls Incorporated® Of Northern Alberta Page 2 of 2 member of the Indigenous Woman’s Literacy Skills Development Program at Keyano College, volunteers with the Fort Chipewyan Pet Rescue Society, serves on the Alberta Native Friendship Centre Association (ANFCA), helps to coordinate the Regional Aboriginal Recognition Awards, is a Board member of the Nistawoyou Friendship Centre. She also represents the municipality of the CEMA Traditional Knowledge Working Group. 

Whether Elena is working hard at her desk, or in the community helping out or working with a community board or association, her goals are to promote and make this a better community for all. She is an excellent role model for young Aboriginal women and girls. She demonstrates by her own commitment and action, what we can achieve if we try. 

Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude will honour Elena and 11 other nominees, at the Women of Inspiration Celebration which will take place in June, 2016. 

The Women of Inspiration is a partnership between Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude, with a goal to recognize women throughout the Wood Buffalo region who inspire others, break new ground or old barriers and help create change. The series also aims to show local girls positive role models who live right here.

To nominate a woman of inspiration, please visit or contact the Girls Inc. office at 780-790-9236.