When 19-year-old Emily Musa was presented with the inaugural $2,000 Bev LaPointe Memorial Scholarship for Women in Trades last week, many of her family members attended because they knew the struggles she’d gone through to achieve it. They were proud of her.
The scholarship is sponsored by the Kootenay Career Development Society.
Musa, an LV Rogers graduate, is in the welding and metal fabrication programs at Selkirk College. She says she wasn’t made for academics.
“From the beginning, I knew I wouldn’t be going to university and sitting in class all day,” she told the Star.
In her application, Musa wrote, “I struggled with school work but worked hard and had help from the learning assistance teachers. I enjoyed the classes where I got to make things, and I did well in them. I’m also an artist and love designing and painting. At Trafalgar school I did a metalwork class and really enjoyed it. I liked that I could create something out of nothing. I started thinking about doing welding for a job.”
Musa’s mother, Leona Dimock, remembers that Trafalgar metalwork class well.
“She started talking about a career in welding. But it was not until she was talking to high school counsellors about it that I realized it was a choice she was serious about.”
Dimock says her daughter needed to find her own path, and not a traditional one.
“She had many struggles to overcome in her life, academically and developmentally. Academics were really difficult for her. We are all really proud of Emily, of where she is at now.”
Musa has her Level C in welding and her first level of metal fabrication, with two more years of education to go.
The late Bev LaPointe worked for the City of Nelson for 32 years in its public works department and was an active union organizer. She did many outdoor jobs for the city during her career including being the first woman to drive the snow plow. She was also KCDS’ founding chair.
“It is particularly meaningful for us to have had such a strong candidate,” said KCDS executive director Jocelyn Carver, presenting the scholarship to Musa last week. “Because of the deep importance of Bev’s contribution to the community, to the trades, to her work at the city and her union, and to have found someone who is studying metal fabrication who came through your own personal process of discovering who you are, spoke deeply to us about Bev’s own path about her finding who she was. This is a powerful message.”
Dimock says the fact that her daughter saw trades as an option is a testament to changes in society.
“My sister is a journeyman,” she says, “and (she and Emily) have talked about what it was like for her, and how much it has changed. Even though there are not a lot of women in the trades, it has definitely improved over the years and the acceptance is much more widespread.”
Musa says the acceptance among her male teachers and classmates is total.
“They treat you like anyone in the class. Everyone is nice, and they respect you.”
Musa wrote in her application that her aunt became a journeyman cabinetmaker more than 20 years ago and encouraged her to become a “kick-ass girl” in the trades.
“Even though I had to work hard in school and didn’t take the high academic courses, I have chosen the right career for me, and I am kick-ass at it!”