Sturgeon County – Mayor Don Rigney and Sturgeon County Council paused their Aug. 24 regular meeting to reward two area students for their community involvement and dedication to furthering their educational goals. Sarena Verbeek and Jayne St. John were each presented $2,000 cheques, the financial reward for being selected as recipients of this year’s Dale MacMillan Memorial Scholarship.
The annual award honours the memory of the long-time Calahoo resident who was active in his community as a coach, fundraiser and event organizer. MacMillan was a one time president of the West Sturgeon Ag. Society and an instrumental member of the Calahoo-Villeneuve Gravel Extraction Committee. He is remembered in the County as a man with a quick wit and the ability to bring people together regardless of how far apart they may have been on any given issue.
Both recipients of this year’s award portray the community-minded qualities that exemplified MacMillan and that are a prerequisite for being considered for the annual scholarship.
Verbeek was recognized for her volunteer work with a local church youth group and for volunteering with the Bulllarama, Rain Maker Rodeo and the Morinville Veterinary Clinic.
“I’m quite honoured and quite surprised to earn this scholarship because it’s a lot of money,” Verbeek said after receiving the award, noting that the funds will be used towards her final year in NAIT’s Interior Design Technology Program. The interior design student is also considering alternate education after finishing her current program, possibly something in the sciences.
For Verbeek, community volunteerism is just something she has done since childhood.
“Growing up, I have been completely involved in the community with 4-H and other volunteer activities that I could,” adding that she has taken care of many neighbours pets and animals over the years.
This year’s second recipient, Jayne St. John, also has an active list of community involvement. The NorQuest College student is a volunteer with the parent council and initiated the Breakfast for Learning Grant, providing a hot lunch program to schools. Additionaly, St. John is currently Chairperson of Continuing Competencies for the Alberta Council of Paramedics and has spent the past decade volunteering with the Bon Accord Fire Department and the Bon Accord / Gibbons Ambulance.
Like Verbeek, St. John said she was pleased to be acknowledged by the community.
“I’m very appreciative of this scholarship and I hope to go farther than where I’m at right now,” St. John said, noting that she wants to work in Sturgeon County once she is finished her education. “This is my home and this is where I live, and I honestly feel that this is where I need to be.”
St. John is currently enrolled in Norquest’s Licenced Practical Nursing Program and plans to continue on with her education by obtaining the Registered Nurse and Registered Nurse Practitioner degrees.
Dale MacMillan’s widow, Gail MacMillan, said it is always an honour to attend the scholarship presentations and that two worthy recipients had been selected once again this year.
MacMillan said in previous years the scholarship had been awarded to one male and one female student, but this year the decision was made to award the top two students regardless of gender.
MacMillan said she was also pleased to see an older student receiving the award, and after talking with St. John briefly at the presentation ceremony was convinced that she truly understood what her late husband was all about.
“I’m just so proud to meet these people, and this is what Dale was all about,” MacMillan said, adding that attending the ceremony honouring her husband’s memory has become easier with the passage of time. “It’s gotten better as the years have gone by. The fist year and the second year were very hard. There’s some good things coming out of it, and I’m very proud and happy.”