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Two Rossland students, one from Montrose and one from Crawford Bay awarded Neil Muth Memorial Scholarships

Ayla von Diebitsch from Rossland is a recipient of the 2020 Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship. Submitted photo

Ayla Diebitsch from Rossland, Jay Maloney from Rossland, Nigel Burk from Montrose and Joli Mwinyi from Crawford Bay will each receive a $2,500 Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship to continue their education.

“We were so moved and inspired by all of the applicants who shared their stories with us,” said Cathy Muth, Neil’s wife.

“Jay, Joli, Ayla and Nigel have overcome incredible personal challenges to find success on their own terms through their unwavering spirit, strength in themselves and a desire to help and contribute to the well-being of others and their community. We are so pleased that we can support them in some small way, to lend a hand and to recognize all of their efforts in persevering through adversity to realize their educational and career goals.”

Jay Maloney will start the final year of his master’s degree at Simon Fraser University this September in the Resource and Environmental Management program. Receiving the scholarship means he can focus on his thesis work in rural and environmental planning rather than having to worry about finding a part-time job.

It also helps him realize his life and career goal of living full-time in the West Kootenay while working with local communities to help them achieve more sustainable, greener futures.

For Jay, the future holds promise.

“Growing up in Rossland, my heart is here in the Basin and I would be thrilled to find satisfying work here as a professional planner, working with rural communities on things like adapting to climate change and balancing economic needs with environmental well-being," Maloney explained.

"The scholarship will make a big difference in giving me the time and focus I need to complete my thesis work. I feel very fortunate, especially given what’s happening with the pandemic, to be supported by my communities of family, friends and school. The Trust is a part of that, and I am feeling hopeful that even through these challenging times, there are good things happening.”

Whether it’s her weekly volunteer work as a mentor at the Sanctuary in Trail with children and youth, her participation on Selkirk College’s Mental Health Committee or volunteering annually with the FireSmart program in her hometown of Rossland, Ayla von Diebitsch is community-minded and committed to supporting others when it comes to their wellness and safety.

Busy with a nursing practicum at Kootenay Lake Hospital this spring and summer, Ayla will begin her final year of the University of Victoria Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree Program at Selkirk College in September, the next step in her goal to work as a critical care nurse to care for those most in need.

“I’ve always wanted a career where I could help others and nursing seemed so right to me" von Diebitsch said.

"The nurses I work with as part of my practicums are everyday superheroes. I want to be able to provide the same kind of support, to help people who are at their most vulnerable to heal, process whatever they are faced with and find hope. As a mature student, I have to juggle work and school – trying to balance everything while making ends meet. This scholarship is so appreciated; it will help me to be able to work a little less and focus more on my studies to help me become the best nurse I can be.”

While working on construction jobs and looking at a career in the trades, Nigel Burk realized he was not on the right path and that something was missing. His life-long love of learning and his affinity for being a mentor to his younger siblings pointed towards teaching. Now about to enter his third year at Selkirk College in preparation for the Bachelor of Education program at Thompson River University, Nigel finally feels like his life and future are heading in the direction he was meant to take all along.

“I want everyone to know that it is possible to overcome challenges, even those that might seem insurmountable, to recalibrate your life and start doing the things you love and want to pursue. You just have to keep moving ahead. With belief in myself and with the support provided by my partner and by the amazing network of support I have had at Selkirk, I’ve been able to move ahead and be successful in my educational journey. I want to thank the Muth family for this scholarship, it will help me change my life for the better and I am very grateful for that.”

Joli Mwinyi dedicates time to helping her community of Crawford Bay.

An active volunteer, she helps at the food bank, assists with the annual fall fair and volunteers in the local kindergarten classroom. This fall, after several years of working part-time and over summers, she’s excited to look ahead to her post-secondary education and a career where she can help others.

Like many high school graduates anticipating their first semester at college or university in September, Joli is faced with uncertainty about what that will look like in this time of COVID-19, but she believes in her ability to meet any challenge.

“I’ve applied and been accepted to two programs – one locally and one in Ontario," Mwinyi  said.

"I was accepted to Humber College in Toronto in their community and justice services program but because of COVID, I am not sure if it will be possible for me to attend in person. I’ve also been accepted at Selkirk College in their teaching assistant program. I am trying to figure out what will be the best for me. I am so appreciative of this scholarship; no matter how I approach my goal, the scholarship is going to help me pursue dreams of being able to help and support others through my work.”

The Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship was established in 2017 to honour Neil Muth, the Trust’s president and chief executive officer from 2005 through 2016, who passed away in November 2016. Neil valued and supported perseverance and continuous learning. He encouraged his children, staff and others to be curious, to seek their own path, and to never give up.

The scholarship is awarded by the Muth family, administered by Columbia Basin Trust and made possible by the generous donations of family, friends, local governments and organizations.

Joli Mwinyi, an active volunteer, dedicates time to helping her community of Crawford Bay. — Submitted photo

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