Gail Hartsook Scholarship winners grateful for recognition

Gail Hartsook Scholarship recipients Nathan Ballantyne (left) and Meagan Nolan (centre) pose for a photo after accepting their scholarships from Prince Albert and Area Community Foundation board member Delphine Melchert (right) on Wednesday, June 19. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Emokhare Paul Anthony

Daily Herald

Nathan Ballantyne of Montreal Lake First Nation has called on the youth in the community to live a good quality life, and make significant use of their time to be a good citizen.

The Indigenous Social Work student from the First Nation University of Canada in Saskatoon received a $2,000 Gail Hartsook Scholarship on Wednesday for volunteering with Str8 Up, an organization that helps former gang members lead a new life.

The scholarship is very personal for Ballantyne because he is a former gang member himself who began turning his life around after getting out of jail.

“I’m really honoured to get this award today,” Ballantyne said. “I never did get a scholarship before. It’s kind of surprising for me to get this. It was really nice to be acknowledged for once, to get a reward like this.”

After living a life of addiction, Ballantyne looks forward to devoting his time to helping other youth on the street who have drug and alcohol addictions become responsible citizens. He also wants to help gang members leave the life behind.

Ballantyne was in and out of jail since he was 13. He’s faced more than 47 criminal charges in his life, but has is happy to be turning his life around, something he credits to cultural practices and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“l think the future is real bright for me now,” he said. “l have all this support. I have all

my family and everything to help me with where I’m going today.”

“It was a real big step for me to change my ways, but all the support I had last summer really helped me,” he added.

Nathan advised local youth that focus, determination, setting goals, and taking a bold step to get out of the comfort zone is very important to improving their life. He also said it’s important to accept help when you need it to start the healing process.

FNUC student Nolan thankful for recognition and encouragement

Meagan Nolan was the second person to receive a $2,000 Gail Hartsook Scholarship on Wednesday.

Like Ballantyne, Nolan studies Indigenous Social Work at the First Nation University of Canada (FNUC), and said winning the scholarship was a welcome surprise.

“I’m very thankful for the Gail Hartsook (Scholarship) in recognizing how hard it’s been doing all this work,” Nolan said. “This is also the very first scholarship I’ve received. I’ve always been the underdog.”

Besides studying social work, Nolan also serves on the Government of Saskatchewan’s post-secondary advisory committee and as an elders’ helper, while also parenting four children.

Nolan credited Prince Albert and Area Community Foundation president Bill Powalinsky for providing encouragement during a difficult time.

“Bill was one of the people in my past who said, ‘you’d be a good social worker,’ so I really want to send a thank you to Bill for believing me in the past when I didn’t believe in myself,” Nolan said.

Prince Albert and Area Community Foundation board member Delphine Melchert presented the scholarships to Nolan and Ballantyne on Wednesday. She said both students were worthy recipients.

“We did get a lot of applicants, and these two rose right to the top,” Melchert said.

The Gail Hartsook Scholarship is awarded in memory of former social worker Gail Hartsook who passed away in 2017. Hartsook was also the instrumental in founding the Prince Albert Mobile Crisis Centre, eventually becoming the organization’s director.

–with files from Jason Kerr/Daily Herald