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Yellowknife's own Terry Fox

Lisa Scott
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 25/05) - Trying to etch out a spot in the world for yourself is a hard enough job for a young adult.

Ruth Proulx, 22, combines that with a 40-hour per week volunteering schedule, fulltime studies and a few hardships along the way.

The Sir John Franklin high school grad is able to maintain her busy lifestyle because of the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award. Worth $7,000 a year for five years, she credits it with helping her through school at Keyano College and at her current school, the Grande Prairie Regional College.

The national award goes out to a select group of Canadian students who do humanitarian work, volunteering and are able to keep good grades at the same time. Proulx is a current recipient.

While her involvement in volleyball and her volunteerism is laudable, Proulx thinks that some of the challenges in her life may have clinched the award for her.

She grew up in a foster home in Yellowknife, going back and forth between her biological family and foster family most of her life, though she remains close with both sets of parents.

Her biological father's accidental death when she was in Grade 12 was another hurdle Proulx had to overcome.

"A lot of it has to do with my athletic involvements and my extracurricular activities and my volunteerism, but I think also because I've overcome a lot in my life," said Proulx from Grande Prairie.

She used one of her social workers from Yellowknife as a reference when applying to the Terry Fox Foundation, something that likely set her apart from other candidates. "I was positive that I had good references. She (the social worker) saw what I went through in my life," she says.

"I needed the scholarship. I never saved for my education," she says, adding that unforeseen financial needs sucked up her savings during high school.

Proulx is following in her social worker's footsteps in Grande Prairie, where she is in her first year of a bachelor of arts program.

She plans to come back to her hometown when she finishes school to work in her field, perhaps even with some of the groups that helped her in her youth.

"I love the North and I really specialized in rural remote communities and aboriginal studies...I want to give back to the North," she says.

Personal role models

As if the money and prestige of the award isn't enough, the fact that it is modeled on one of her personal role models, Terry Fox, makes it even more meaningful.

"He wasn't the best on the team, but he tried and tried and tried and then he made it," she said of Fox's efforts to get on his school's basketball team.

"He overcame a lot in his life, but he also excelled at sport and fitness as a kid and he volunteered with his student association. I think those were a lot of things that I had done," says Proulx.