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"When we brought out the supplies in the open, the kids went nuts. They grabbed whatever they could and they wouldn't share," said St. Cyr. "When word got out we had balls, well, it was as if we had gold!" she added. Children and adults flocked to their area to kick real balls around, not the rotting-fruit-in-a-sock to which they were accustomed.

The days started early with arts and crafts activities to get a head start before the unbearable heat set in. But she got used to it after a week. She also had to get used to living without electricity during the day and showering only when it rained, after water was collected. Not even the ants in her bed at night bothered her -- but the 10 cm cockroach did.

"That was the most traumatizing event," said St. Cyr, who now laughs at the incident. She couldn't kill it, fearing the "crunch" would upset her further. The hardy insect survived a couple of days in her wastebasket until a friend did the dirty deed.

Despite these conditions, St. Cyr said it was tought to leave the children and her friends. She still keeps in touch with some haitians. And she plans to go back -- as a professional engineer. She'd like to work on road construction and perhaps shave a couple of hours off those 150 km trips.

"The self-satisfaction of helping the Haitians means so much more to me than any job in Canada," she explained. "There's so much work to do, so much need." "I really hope during those three weeks I helped them forget the misery at home...Three weeks may not seem like a long time, but it will be a lasting memory for them."

Michelle St. Cyr is a recipient of the University of Alberta's Leadership Entrance Scholarship. She was also awarded a $5,000 Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation Scholarship.

She's the first U of A undergraduate student to receive the award, one of five across Canada. The award is based on leadership, community involvement and extracurricular activities, in addition to high academic achievement.

St. Cyr said she chose to study at the U of A because of the "reputation of the Facutly of Engineering and the ability to take courses in French at Faculte Saint-Jean.

She is thrilled with the award, founded in the memory of the 14 women killed at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. And while she hopes to inspire otehr women to pursue engineering, it's clear this future mechanical engineer will always be a "humanitarian" one as well.

Reprinted courtesy of Folio.

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