A new scholarship will soon be available to local First Nations youth.
The Dylan French Memorial Scholarship will be available to students in School District 72 who are pursuing trade school.
The scholarship is named after Dylan French, who graduated from Timberline Secondary in 2011. He died in a car accident on Oct. 1, 2017. He was 24 years old.
French’s mom, Mary, says the scholarship has been in the works for more than a year.
It was announced by the Homalco First Nation, of which both French and Mary are members, in May 2018 during an education day celebrating the educational achievements of their youth.
“Dylan was a very spirited young man. He was so much fun. He was such a neat person,” Mary says. But he really struggled with high school.
During parent-teacher interviews, she would be told that he had behaviour issues, or that he wasn’t trying hard enough.
After years of testing, French was diagnosed with a form of dyslexia around Grade 8.
The second of four sons, French came close to not completing high school, but Mary kept encouraging him.
“You’re so close to the finish line,” she’d say. “You just have to get through this.”
His smiling face beams out of the pages of the 2011 Mirror grad supplement, immortalized at 17 as a high school graduate.
But his education didn’t stop there.
With Campbell River in an economic slump, Mary opted to move her family to Alberta, where there might be more opportunities for her boys.
French began pipefitting in Fort McMurray that summer.
It was like he was born to do it.
That fall, he enrolled at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and began his studies in the pipefitting trade.
Suddenly, he was excelling in school.
“It was never a struggle for him,” said Mary. “He knew it was something he was great at.”
She remembers one night he called her to tell her that other students were asking if he might tutor them.
“Can you believe that somebody asked me to tutor them, mom?” she recalls him saying.
French graduated top-three in this class and earned his Red Seal in 2016.
He had finally found his calling. At 23 years old, he was a journeyman pipefitter and had the opportunity to travel all over Alberta and Saskatchewan to ply his trade.
Mary hopes that the scholarship might provide opportunities for other youth to find their purpose after high school.
“Nothing is ever going to bring him back, but to give a young person hope and pride…” she says. “He just glowed. He was just a really good pipefitter and I hope other young people find their purpose.”
Mary began fundraising for the Dylan French Memorial Golf Tournament earlier this year. She was surprised at the amount of support the event received.
“The support was beyond anything we could have ever asked for,” she says. “It surpassed all our expectations in terms of fundraising.”
Storey Creek Golf Course, which hosted the fundraiser on July 13, began calling the event Dylan’s Day.
It was a celebration of French and a promotion of trades. After a round of golf, a banquet was held. The centrepieces were hardhats.
“I think Dylan would be really proud that we’re promoting trades,” says Mary. “He was very proud to be a pipefitter.”
They raised $28,000.
“If we can be a light to a young person and give them hope; if we can give that opportunity, it just makes us feel so honoured that Dylan hasn’t been forgotten,” she says, “and maybe somebody else can find that passion that he found and feel smart and feel successful.”