Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta Women of Inspiration Series Presented by Syncrude
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...
Melody Lepine was born in Fort McMurray and grew up in the community of Fort Chipewyan, which is the oldest settlement in Alberta. As a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, she learned at an early age to love the land and formed a strong connection to the land through the teachings of her mushum and kokum (grandfather and grandmother) Ms. Lepine balances these teachings in her life every day. Melody went to the University of Alberta and obtained her Bachelor of Science –focusing on environmental sciences and reclamation. Her balance in teachings of both traditional knowledge and western science is one of her key strengths. As a single mother, Melody realized the need to continue her education and to be a positive role model for her daughter born in 1994.
Melody was recruited out of University and went to work for the Mikisew Cree band as their environmental coordinator. She quickly became the Director. She along with her team is mandated to manage all consultation matters pertaining to natural resource development within the Mikisew Cree’s traditional territory and the Athabasca Oil sands region. She oversees and manages many complex and challenging environmental, social and cultural issues that the Mikisew Cree are inundated with. Some of the issues that she manages include oil sands regulatory interventions, developing and implementing the Mikisew Cree consultation protocol, Indigenous knowledge studies, land use planning, government policy reviews, community based research and creating a community based environmental monitoring program.
Melody is a strong supporter of her staff and has been a great role model and mentor for many young indigenous women who have worked with and for her. One worker credits Melody’s encouragement in being instrumental in her own decision to go back to University. Melody’s success as a single mom and her success in going to University as a single mom is an example of what can be accomplished with determination and hard work. Melody believes in providing opportunities for others to achieve their potential.
Melody has been recognized for her many accomplishments by being awarded an Esquao Award in 2010 and as being awarded the female citizen of the Year award At the Regional Aboriginal Recognition Awards in 2007. She is currently a Board member for CEMA and serves on the TEK working group.
Ms. Lepine in 2012 decided to go back to University for her Masters and knows that she can balance her life with her career with university studies. She is currently enrolled at Royal Roads working towards her Masters. She and her daughter who is also attending university share her interest in continuing education. In 2015 Melody put her studies on hold to run as the New Democratic candidate for the Cold Lake/ Fort McMurray federal riding. Melody has a drive to make the region a healthy and positive place for people to live and work and raise their families.
When she is not working for her community, encouraging others to explore opportunities and take on challenges, she and her husband (she married in 2014) like to mountain climb. They have climbed Mt. Elburs, the highest peak on European continent as well as Mt. Aconcagua – the highest peak in South America. Her future goal involves conquering Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Whether it be climbing mountains, being a role model, working to protect the land for future generations, Ms. Lepine is a role
Carla, her husband and three daughters have called Fort McMurray home for 15 years. Carla has taken her passion for swimming and turned it into a career where she instills in young people the love of sports and a healthy life. After 10 years of coaching Carla, made the decision to develop and implement her own ideas and philosophies. So began the Young Aquatic Club or YAC. Her goal was to offer the community a wide range of opportunities to get into the pool, swim, have fun and she works tirelessly to help each and every swimmer reach their goals, whatever they may be.
Ms. Young started up Swim Academy/Aquatic Leadership at Father Mercredi High School. It engages kids, families and adults in the importance of learning this lifelong skill. Barriers are removed to allow all students to be able to participate. To Carla, finances are not a part of the equation. The students in this program focus on fitness swimming and can take lifeguard training while earning school credits. Students are then able to become fully trained and can apply to local pools after graduation or as a summer job.
Mentoring is an important part of Carla’s life and she encourages her older students to become coaches and mentors them throughout. Her senior swimmers can become junior coaches. Carla has seen her Young Aquatic Club grow from a membership of 35 kids to 200. The growth is due to her passion for teaching kids to enjoy the sport, be it for fitness or competitive swimming.
Ms. Young is a Competitive Development level coach through the national Coaching Certification program (NCCP). For over 25 years she has shared her passion for coaching, mentoring and leading. She is a Master Instructor for Red Cross where she volunteers. She also volunteers for Swim Alberta NCCP in program delivery.
When she is not in the water, Carla likes to participate in triathlons. She successfully completed a half Iron Man competition. She currently is the vice president of the Fort McMurray Hall of Fame Committee.
Carla is a role model and mentor to many young McMurrities. Her commitment to her students through her career and through her volunteerism makes her a worthy Woman of Inspiration.
Heather Roberts has called Fort McMurray her home for more than 30 years. During that time, she has reached out and helped numerous people. Heather is a dedicated volunteer who is selfless in her commitment to helping others. Ms. Roberts is a strong role model to those she works with, and to those she helps.
Heather’s love for children has always been apparent. She used to organize a Christmas party for children and would work with the schools to have them send children who were in need of special attention and help. She would find a venue, schedule Santa and provide gifts for these children. She is an excellent recruiter of volunteers ,as her commitment and enthusiasm is infectious.
Heather became a Big Sister and brought one of the children from one of her Christmas parties into the program with her. She soon adopted the entire family, being a positive influence for all of the children and a support for the mom for decades. To this day Heather is in contact with the girls and has extended her warmth and caring to their children.
Heather has impacted so very many lives with her warm smile and determination to help make the lives of others a little easier. Some of the memories that others have of Heather include those of Joanne – who was a young mom new to Fort McMurray. Heather offered to take care of her one month old baby so that Joanne and her husband could go out and shop. Such a small kindness that meant so much to this young couple. Heather would perform random acts of kindness on a daily base. One day while shopping, she noticed a blind lady with her service dog having problems shopping, without a thought Heather helped her out, got her home and then she recruited a group of coworkers to be available whenever this lady needed a ride to shop.
Each Christmas Heather would set up a tree in her office and encourage staff to donate items or money to the SPCA. She would coordinate with the SPCA and would deliver donations to them. Heather organizes an Adopt A Family each Christmas and along with co-workers, family and friends, she makes that family’s Christmas. .Heather generously gives of her time and be it walking the dogs at the SPCA or volunteering her time for the Salvation Army kettle, she wants to help others who are struggling.
Heathers’ kindness has led her to adopt a child in a third world orphanage. She not only supports the child but is instrumental in raising awareness of the orphanages so that other children can be adopted. Ms. Roberts has accomplished a lot all the while she has been battling with diabetes and other related complications. She takes her passion for quilting and makes quilts for new babies or for friends who are sick or in need of comfort. She organizes her friends to make quilt blocks which she puts together for those with life threatening diagnosis.
Heather enjoys her grandchildren and mentors them the same way she has mentored others throughout her life. She is a leader extraordinaire, a positive role model, a mentor, a warm hearted woman who demonstrates that one person can make a positive difference in someone’s life. She is truly a Woman of Inspiration.
Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude will honour Heather and 11 other nominees, at the Women of Inspiration Celebration which will take place in June, 2016.
To nominate a woman of inspiration, please visit girlsincofnorthernalberta.org or contact the Girls Inc. office at 780-790-9236.