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Penticton woman earns BC Hydro indigenous scholarship en route to engineering degree

Shaylene Dekock-Kruger
Shaylene Dekock-Kruger, an electrical engineering student at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna, earned a BC Hydro Indigenous Scholarship this year.

"I hope that by going to school, I can inspire others in my community"

A few years ago, Shaylene Dekock-Kruger's days were so full of sports, babysitting and working at the local White Spot that school took a backseat. Today, the Penticton Indian Band member is on her road to a degree in electrical engineering at UBC Okanagan.

"In high school, I had three younger brothers and a bunch of cousins that I had to take care of, so getting school done wasn't my first priority," recalls Dekock-Kruger, one of this year's BC Hydro aboriginal scholarship recipients. "I was also pretty athletic. I rode horses, played hockey for most of my life, started snowboarding and those took up a lot of time, too."

Thanks to her mom Cheryl Dekock's urging to get her academic act together, Shaylene hit the books hard in Grades 11 and 12 and got the grades she needed to pursue sciences at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna. She dropped snowboarding and hockey, a game her dad had played at the junior level, to concentrate on another pursuit traditionally practised by men.

"After my first semester in sciences, I started learning what engineering was," she recalls. "I actually didn't know what it was at all. I never knew an engineer, and it seemed that whenever my high school teachers talked about it, it was directed toward the guys. I didn't really know that was a route for me."

Today, Dekock-Kruger is in the distinct minority at UBC Okanagan, in part because she's aboriginal and in part because she's a woman – she estimates that only about seven of the 60 electrical engineering students at the school are women. She feels that in the minds of some of her more traditionally-minded professors, there's a nagging doubt about the suitability of women in science.

"Sometimes, I feel they can be a little harder on us – we have to be at the top of our game," she says.

BC Hydro offers scholarships to Indigenous residents of B.C. enrolled in a full-time post-secondary programs. We're especially interested in supporting Indigenous People working toward professions relevant to BC Hydro. Dekock-Kruger's chosen area of study is a great fit for a possible future with BC Hydro.

Spreading the word about opportunities for aboriginal students

Dekock-Kruger doesn't take it for granted that that her band is able to cover her tuition fees at UBC Okanagan. And she hopes more kids on the Penticton take advantage of the opportunity.

She chose UBC Okanagan in part because living in the Lower Mainland is so much more expensive, a fact underlined by her experience living and working as a co-op student for a Burnaby company last summer. She wants to spread the word back home in Penticton that post-secondary education is rewarding and affordable.

"That's something I think about a lot at university," she says. "There are a lot of students from my community who graduate from high school and don't pursue post secondary. And quite a bit of my reserve lives in some level of poverty. I hope that by going to school, I can kind of inspire some of the youth in my community."

A baby step on the road to engineering

Engineering may have been a mystery to Dekock-Kruger a few years back, but she's now starting to consider exactly where a degree will take her. And a little engineering know-how comes in handy from time to time.

"After my first year of engineering, I broke my phone screen," she says. "I thought that, to save some money, I'd try to fix it myself and learn about the inside of a phone. Surprisingly, I was successful. But it took me four hours to do it – there are all these magnetic fields inside your phone, so it's really tough to get those tiny screws – some you can barely see – back in."

Learn more about the scholarships BC Hydro offers.