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Thunder Bay Youth Welded to Community

Jolene KohneJolene Kohne, the first person from Thunder Bay to win the Garfield Western Merit Scholarship, is using the prestigious national award to blaze a trail in welding.

“I’ve been passionate about welding since the first time I tried it in grade 9 at St. Ignatius High School,” said Jolene, “I’m proud to be one of 25 recipients from 900 applicants for the scholarship.” The scholarship is awarded annually to students who show a promise of leadership, a strong dedication to their field of study at a Canadian college and a commitment to their communities. The selection process for the scholarships is one of the most intensive and personalized in Canada.

As a national winner, Jolene received three full years of paid tuition, a stipend of $8,000 and an additional $3,500 for summer experience projects in Canada or abroad. Jolene is beginning her education at Confederation College in a 36-week Welding Techniques Program and will then move on to certification as a Quality Engineering Technician at Mohawk College in Hamilton.

“When I graduate with my welding diploma I want to return to Thunder Bay because I love the natural beauty and balance,” said Jolene. “It has that small town feel, yet it’s big enough to fulfill all your needs. I’d like to teach welding and become a female role model within the community - pass the torch and teach success to others.”

Jolene also teaches violin at Music Place and is a member of the Kam Valley Fiddlers. She started classical violin at the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts at age four and currently plays with the Thunder Bay Youth Symphony.

Jolene attributes her confidence and community awareness to her involvement with the Common Bonds, a social justice group, where she learned to explore some of the causes of social issues, like hunger and poverty, and discovered that she wanted to get out into the world to create positive change.

“To any girl who wants to pursue a trade – these are valuable skills world-wide,” said Jolene. “If you’re passionate about the job and you’re good at, then go for it! Sometimes it’s rough, but in the end it is worth it.”