Program links students with mentors

The 4-H leadership program provides university scholarships and valuable advice from experts in their field

Discovering the successes of high profile athletes and businesspeople is influencing 4-H alumni navigating their own career paths.

Western Canadians Jessica Mayes, Eveline Juce and Erinn Jones, along with Joshua Power of Newfoundland and Labrador, each received $20,000 and were matched with mentors related to their fields of interest through the 4-H Canada Leadership Excellence Awards of Distinction (LEAD).

For Mayes, a member of the Pierson Pathfinders 4-H Club and MAC/JAC 4-H Club at McGill University, that has meant phone and in-person meetings with David Bailey, chief executive officer of Genome Alberta.

She learned that the former Agriculture Canada research scientist is not in his original field of study.

“It doesn’t really matter where you start,” she said.

“You’ll always end up in some place you’d like to be.”

Mayes, who is in her first year of agriculture and environmental science studies, hopes to benefit from Bailey’s network of contacts for jobs, internships or information in her future plans. She wants to do biological controls research or policy development with an organization such as the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

“It’s just nice to have someone in your field happy to help and guide you and line up valuable experiences,” she said.

She has previously represented Manitoba at the UN Pilgrimmage for Youth in New York and was involved with Encounters with Canada and Dalhousie University’s one-month science and technology program.

For Eveline Juce, mentoring from former Canadian Olympic biathlete Megan Imrie has been invaluable.

This winter, Juce competed in biathalon for Canada in the Winter World University Games in Kaz-akhstan, so she appreciated Imrie’s advice on competing internationally and attending school at the same time.

“She came to one of my races in Canmore (Alta.) in December and it was nice talking to her after my race and all the tips she gave me on post-race psychologically and physically,” said Juce.

She is majoring in chemistry at the University of Alberta and has plans to be a radiation oncologist.

Juce is a member of the Decker Country Riders 4-H Club in Hamiota, Man., and is eager to return to Manitoba to start riding her horses in 4-H lessons and shows this summer.

From the mentoring sessions with entrepreneur and former Dragons Den panelist Brett Wilson, Jones hopes to learn more about his varied career path and philanthropy.

“It will be valuable to get pointers on how he got so successful,” she said.

The first year engineering student at the University of Saskatchewan from Balzac, Alta., called Wilson, a native of North Battleford, Sask., easy to talk to, personable and energetic.

Like Wilson, Jones would like to assume leadership roles in her future, especially as a role model to encourage other women to enter male-dominated science and engineering programs.

She knows how intimidating it can be, noting she played hockey for 11 years, mostly on male teams.

“I knew I could hold my own with the boys,” said Jones.

She said the $20,000 LEADS scholarship has helped her focus on school.

“Otherwise I’d have to take out a student loan. Not having to get a job and being able to focus on classes makes it a lot easier. Classes are already incredibly difficult,” Jones said.

The former Balzac 4-H Beef Club member participated in the 2016 4-H Citizenship conference in Ottawa, where the group met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

She called 4-H a good program that has benefited her in public speaking, communicating with others and problem solving.

The LEADS program, now in its second year, is administered by 4-H Canada and supported by Canadian National Railway.

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