Thanks for the Cash
BY DELON SHURTZ
When Heidi Eijgel was a young girl, she had dreams of becoming an astronomer.
She was fascinated with stars and space, and thought a career studying
the heavens would be ideal.
But reality struck when she finally attended university. As she considered
her choices, astronomy among them, Ms. Eijgel noticed that there was plenty
of work closer to home. "I realized I was on a perfectly good planet
that needed to be studied," says Ms. Eijgel, a past APEGGA scholarship
winner. "I love our planet, and wanted to work in and visit as many
different landscapes, and wilderness areas as I could."
That decision led her to the University of British Columbia where she
majored in geology and graduated in 1985 with a bachelor of science degree.
Ten years later she was back in school, this time at the University of
Lethbridge where she majored in science, minored in outdoor education
and graduated in 1997 with a bachelor of education.
It was during her sojourn at the U of L that Ms. Eijgel, now 38, became
acquainted with APEGGA. She's forever grateful.
During her first U of L year, Ms. Eijgel saw a scholarship advertisement
posted on a bulletin board. She decided to wait until her second year
before applying. "I thought, Let's get some good grades, first."
The scholarship fit Ms. Eijgel like a glove. It was intended for someone
with an education degree returning to school to earn a degree in geology,
geophysics or engineering. Or, as in Ms. Eijgel's case, for someone with
a geology, geophysics or engineering degree returning to school to earn
an education degree. "I looked at it and thought, this is me."
Although the scholarship was good for two years, Ms. Eijgel only needed
it for one. Yet the $2,000 was like manna from heaven. Even more important
than the money was that APEGGA believed in her.
"It was a real morale boost. Just being recognized by APEGGA really
helped." Armed with some very specific skills she landed a job with
Alberta Environment as an interpreter at Beauvais Lake Provincial Park
in southwestern Alberta. It wasn't long before that was extended and expanded,
and she became education information coordinator in the Pincher Creek
Area, Natural Resources Service office in southern Alberta. Although she
works out of an office in Lethbridge, she provides education program support
for conservation officers and biology staff in the Pincher Creek area.
That includes developing and implementing school programs in provincial
parks, particularly Beauvais Lake.
Ms. Eijgel has also developed and writes for an educational website,
which she eventually hopes to make even more interactive. Developing the
site was another of the many skills she learned at university, and for
which she credits the APEGGA scholarship.
"It gave me confidence that my career change was a good idea; that
going back to school was a good idea and that APEGGA was supporting what
I was doing."