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

(1 Vote)

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...

Samra Ilyas

Samra Ilyas has called Fort McMurray home for eight years. She moved to Canada from England and is the Program Delivery Supervisor for Alberta Works/Employment and Financial Supports division in the Ministry of Human Services. Samra’s compassion and willingness to go above and beyond for her clients is appreciated by all. Her client group includes individuals with multiple barriers such as mental health or medical health issues preventing them from working, single parents struggling to make ends meet, individuals fleeing abusive relationships or those involved with the justice system. All of her clients benefit from her non -judgemental, compassionate attitude. Her desire ‘to help’ is incessant. One client stated “the permanent effects I suffer from are acute. Major depression and migraine headaches have left me helpless, and bi-polar episodes have resulted in my family nicknaming me Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I know that I am not always easy to deal with, but I finally got the help I needed when I met Samra.” 

“Samra has empowered me to follow through on matters related to everything from low-income assistance to finding a local doctor. She has acted as an advocate on my behalf and gone beyond to work with me, ensuring my safety and well-being. She is an inspiration and a role model.” This client has gone on to become an active member of the community, advocating for others who need help.

Not satisfied to help in her professional life, Samra is actively involved in her community and gives countless hours championing for social services agencies, diversity and equality for all. She has been a founding member of the Collaboration for Religious Inclusion, an avid volunteer for the Islamic Centre of the Fort McMurray Northern Lights Sisters’ Association, the centre’s woman’s group. She can be found front and centre in organizing food bank drives and her team was successful in collecting over 5,000 lbs of food donations. She is involved with the Municipality Adopt A Road program, loves to arrange volunteer activities at the hospital for seniors, and many other community initiatives.

She benefits her community through her leadership and energy. Her positive attitude, enthusiasm is exemplary whether it be through promoting the understanding of the Hijab or through her volunteer activities, her commitment to the community certainly identifies her as a woman of inspiration for others. Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude will honour Samra and 11 other nominees, at the Women of Inspiration Celebration which will take place in June, 2016.


Krista Balsom

Krista has called Fort McMurray home since 2001. She graduated from Westwood Community High School and went off to the University of Ottawa to study political science. She used her university experience to secure a position as a Legislative Assistant in the House of Commons. It was in Ottawa where she honed her skills in public relations.

In 2009, Ms. Balsom returned to Fort McMurray. She combined her passion for the community, with her background in public relations and at a young age started a magazine for everyone who lives, works and plays in Fort McMurray –“Your McMurray Magazine.” The success of her first magazine, led her to start up Fort McMurray’s Child Magazine. As a local resource for families, it covers topics such as health, education and recreation specific to the region. Both magazines fall under the umbrella of Balsom Communications, a communications company that passionately shares the positive stories of Fort McMurray and surrounding communities.

Krista has developed a keen business sense and is undaunted by the magnitude of starting and maintaining two publications. She works tirelessly to network and engage with the community, volunteering hundreds of hours each year to many different causes and organizations. She currently sits on two local Boards – the Fort McMurray United Way and the HIV North Society. Krista is a strong supporter of the Wood Buffalo Food Bank, the Northern Lights Health Foundation, Fort McMurray Heritage Society, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Waypoints and many others. She believes in promoting and supporting those organizations that improve the quality of life for those in the region. Her philosophy – if she can find the time, she will be there.

Ms. Balsom married and became a stepmom to two wonderful children. She shares her passion for life with her step children by mentoring and encouraging them to participate in the community. She promotes the importance of volunteering and helps instill in them the meaning of ‘giving back to the community.’

Krista encourages other young women to reach their potential and she makes herself accessible to talk to girls about the media and communication. She willingly shares her experiences and challenges in her quest for success and happiness. Krista is a positive role model for young girls as she shares her mantra in life 

“Dreaming it is the first step in making it reality.” Be it as a successful business person, community activist, step mom, or mentor, Krista demonstrates vision, creativity and initiative in everything she does. Krista Balsom is truly an Inspirational Woman.


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