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Students win scholarships

Award can help make school affordable for some first nations students

Two university students who were raised in the Powell River area are among the 117 first nations students province wide to receive scholarships from the Irving K. Barber BC Scholarship Society for 2011.

Melina Sparks is Metis and is in her first year of engineering studies at University of British Columbia (UBC). She plans to branch into computer engineering as her studies continue. Sparks said the award will help make this possible.

“It means a lot because otherwise if I didn’t have the financial support I most likely wouldn’t be able to go to school. So it’s a big deal.”

Kelsey Louie is the other local recipient of the award. Louie is in his first year of medical school at UBC and at the time of writing had his nose buried in textbooks studying for finals. He did not have time for an interview.

The society has been awarding scholarships to BC students since 2004 with returns from a $10-million endowment fund provided by the provincial government in 2007. In 2011 a total of $311,500 was awarded to students in BC.

“Through the Irving K. Barber B.C. Scholarship Society, we are supporting aboriginal learners to take post-secondary education and training so they’re ready to fill the jobs of tomorrow,” said Naomi Yamamoto, minister of advanced education, in a press release. “Congratulations and best wishes to the recipients as they continue their studies.”

The award amounts to $3,500 and is only awarded to first-and second-year students. Sparks said she won the award with the support of Allison Burt, a counsellor at Brooks Secondary School, who helped her find out about the award and apply for it. Sparks also won a first nations’ financial aid award through BC Hydro.

Sparks recommends that any first nations students entering into post-secondary education should look into these awards because they are a great way to help pay for school. She recommends asking counsellors at school for help or even just searching for awards online.

“If you’re okay at searching on Google, which most people now just look around,” said Sparks.

For more information on the award interested readers can visit the scholarship website.