Scholarship encourages women in the trades

Perry Bergson
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Chelsea Kowal (left) and Danielle Osowsky pose in front of Carlton Comprehensive Public High School on Wednesday evening prior to the school’s awards night. Kowal is funding a $2,000 scholarship that will help with Osowsky’s school costs in the fall.

An utterly unique new scholarship at Carlton Comprehensive Public High School may have a big impact on women entering the trades.

Chelsea Kowal, who graduated from the school in 2005, decided it was a worthwhile goal to sponsor a scholarship.

“I was looking at different ways that I could help out the community and being a woman in the trades, when I started out there were very few,” she says, adding that during her three-year apprenticeship she didn’t encounter any female welders. “Now I’m obviously in the position to do something, to help, so I figured a female trade scholarship would kind of promote getting women into the trades.”

The first-ever winner of the $2,000 scholarship was 17-year-old Danielle Osowsky, who will enter SAIT in the fall for a two-year course to study baking and pastry. She was blown away by Kowal’s generosity and eager to meet her.

“I could tell that she was a very confident and wasn’t afraid to be in the trades so it was really nice to meet her,” Osowsky says. “I wanted to meet her before I got the scholarship from her.”

Kowal initially went to university but found that wasn’t for her. She switched to welding, earned her journeyman ticket and was given a terrific opportunity in Zama City, Alta.

She quickly cashed in and was able to pay off her gear. She’s already established three companies in Alberta.

“To be in a position at 26 years old to fund something like this and see them progress and succeed and see women in the trades is incredible,” she says. “It’s great.”

Carlton guidance counsellor Rachelle Kraus there is a wide variety of awards, based on everything from academics to student growth to overcoming adversity to leadership and community involvement.

“This one is a nice addition because we do offer several trades courses in the school,” she says, noting they include welding, machining, mechanics construction, cosmetology and cooking. “This one is unique because it’s a young lady who used to go to school here and graduated here who took on a somewhat non-traditional female trade in welding and decided to come back and foster her passion and growth in another young adult who may be pursuing that line.”

While grades played a role in choosing the winner of the scholarship, so did two recommendations from people who knew the student.

The student also has to be already enrolled in their first semester for their trades course, which allows Kowal to pick a student who is pursuing their passion.

“I really wanted to focus on the practical side of it,” Kowal says. “This is not a popularity contest. Students don’t have a say in and teachers don’t get a vote.”

Another part of the criteria was writing a paper on women in the trades. Osowsky said it came naturally to her because she has strong feelings on the subject.

“Especially this year I’ve learned that when women are empowered, the entire economy is empowered too,” Osowsky says. “I feel like it’s really important that women are treated equally. In our First World country, we are treated equally but in Third World countries they don’t have that chance.

“And so I figured since I have so much power here, I better use it. I think it’s important that women aren’t afraid because in so many trades men dominate.”

Organizations: Carlton Comprehensive Public High School

Geographic location: Zama, Alberta

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