At 17, Ryan Howell knows he’ll be measuring his future in latitudes and longitudes.
No sooner will the Garden City Collegiate grad walk away from the school this summer armed with his diploma than he will be putting on a headset and settling into the cockpit of a Cessna 152.
Howell has earned a $25,000 Power Pilot scholarship from the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and will spend the next seven weeks in St. Andrews training to get his private pilot’s license.
"It’s unlike anything I’ve done in my entire life," said Howell, who discovered his love of flying shortly after joining the 6 Jim Whitecross Squadron at McGregor Armoury in the North End.
"Just being up in the air, being in control, being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want."
The scholarship is highly coveted — there are only a handful offered to cadets nationwide — and highly taxing. Howell says he’ll be spending six days a week, 12 hours a day learning how planes work and what makes them fly.
After that, Howell will have a weeklong summer break before slumping into his desk at Red River College, where he’ll spend 17 months in the school’s aircraft maintenance engineer program.
"I’ll know how to fix them and fly them," said Howell.
Whether he’s in the sky or on the tarmac, Howell says he wants to work with planes, adding he hopes to fly a Boeing 747 or be a fighter pilot one day in the future.
Meanwhile, Kristina Claeys will be digging her heels into the ground as she works towards not one, but two degrees at once.
Claeys received a $2,250 entry scholarship to the University of Winnipeg, where she plans to double major in French as part of a double degree in French studies and education. When she graduates, Claeys will have a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of education — a boost to her job prospects in an otherwise competitive and saturated job market, she says.
"People say it’s very hard to get a job as a teacher nowadays and that’s very true," said Claeys, who will minor in theatre.
"When people ask me ‘how do you expect to get a job?’ well, I’m keeping up my French because, honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had a French substitute.
"We need more French teachers. It’s our second language. We should have more people teaching that."
Claeys is quick to add she doesn’t want to spend her entire career as a French teacher. And, in fact, the prospect of a two-month summer vacation isn’t a selling point of the job, she says.
Teachers at Garden City were instrumental in helping her cope with the death of both her grandfathers this year, said Claeys. That compassion helped her decide she wanted to teach in the first place. She hopes one day to become a student counsellor.
"(The teachers) have been fantastic on keeping me on track with school and I still kept my average pretty high, which I’m really happy about, and that’s because they helped me through it," said Claeys.
"I want to be that person for somebody else one day."