Not Your Usual Suspect… Julie Yekimchuk
She arrived in September of 2012, having never before seen the community she was now going to call home. She had heard the stories, half expecting to arrive in “Mordor” and find herself living in a pit of bitumen. But, says Julie Yekimchuk, Fort McMurray was not what she had heard: “We descended down Highway 63 and into the valley. I saw all the beautiful trees and I thought ‘this is Fort McMurray’?”
IN A COMMON NARRATIVE Julie came to Fort McMurray with a significant other who had secured employment in the region. A brand-new University graduate with a degree in Political Science and English on her resume, Julie came to find employment, but that wasn’t the only thing she found.
“I found my independence in Fort McMurray,” says Yekimchuk, an Ophthalmic Technician with Lasik MD who is currently pursuing education on the path towards becoming a Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist. When Julie came to the region as a new resident she quickly became involved in the community, seeking out a belly dancing school, starting a cheer leading team at a local high school and becoming active in the burgeoning political scene. “I’ve found things to do to establish normalcy in my life,” continues Yekimchuk. “I’ve found people with similar interests, doing things like dance and ballet classes, being a participant in the local half-marathon and even just running on the beautiful trail systems in the community.”
Those connections proved valuable to Yekimchuk in December of 2013 when her relationship ended and she faced a decision: stay in Fort McMurray, or return to Edmonton.
“The easy thing to do would have been to go back to Edmonton where my family is,” she says. “But I didn’t want to take the easy way out. I figured I have a job, and I want to make it work. Fort McMurray is where I have made my home.” She smiles a brilliant mega-watt smile and says: “I have a life here.”
Yekimchuk has many thoughts for those who are considering making Fort McMurray their new home, too.
“Come and visit and form your own perceptions. Don’t listen to the things you read or hear – come and see MacDonald Island Park, the rivers, the nature – and then dig a little deeper. Use the tools available, like Twitter, to connect with the people who live here,” she says, advice from her own experience in the community she now calls home.
“This is a place where people are making their homes and having their families,” she says. “It’s a boomtown but people actually live here, and people can be happy here. This is a community where people live.”
Yekimchuk smiles again. “I didn’t come here with a five or 10 year plan like some people do, and I am not sure how long I will be here – but I am here now, and I intend to make the most of it while I am,” she says, and it is clear this dynamic young woman –and not your usual suspect - will succeed in her quest to make the most of her community while contributing to it at the same time.