November 20, 2018 - 8:45am
It has been a long journey for Avryl Brophy to realize she could achieve academically.
“I grew up in foster care since I was 12 years old,” she says. “I never saw the opportunity as a youth that post-secondary education was in my future.”
With a little courage and perseverance, Brophy changed that narrative. A single mother of two teenage boys, Brophy returned to the classroom in her late 20s. She began her educational journey at Vancouver Island University (VIU) by upgrading through the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program to earn her Dogwood diploma. From there, she enrolled as a Post-Care Tuition Waiver studentin the Bachelor of Arts program, then switched her focus after first year to take the Resource Management Officer Technology diploma program. Now, Brophy is in her final year of the Natural Resource Protection degree program, and last winter received the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship (QES) to travel abroad to complete her practicum.
By 2021, the QES program will have supported 42 VIU students to go abroad on internships, along with welcomed 10 Master’s students from Belize and Tanzania to complete their full degrees, as well as three short-term study and research placements from a wide-ranging network. The scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement and community involvement.
“Leadership and community engagement are woven throughout the project and students have unparalleled opportunities to connect with career-enhancing internship opportunities,” says Danielle Paydli, VIU’s International Partnership Specialist. “All scholar activities reinforce the importance of reaching the ultimate outcome of a strengthened global community of young leaders from across Canada and partner countries.”
Brophy demonstrates her commitment as a community leader through her bird conservation efforts. She is an avid volunteer bird bander with a local Nanaimo group at Buttertubs Marsh led by VIU’s Dr. Eric Demers.
“Birdscan help the environment by spreading pollination, seed dispersal and as pest control for agriculture,” says Brophy. “Birds are a really great teaching tool as well.”
When the opportunity came up to assist with a master’s thesis project concentrating on ornithology research in Grenada, a small island in the Caribbean, Brophy applied to the QES program to access funding to participate.
“I am passionate about community, public outreach and travel, however until recently, travelling abroad has always been more of a dream of mine than a reality,” she says.
Brophy travelled to Grenada with University of Manitoba master’s student Kim Wetten on a three-month trip to use bird banding to document scientific data to learn more about the lifespan, breeding, health and migration of the birds in the Caribbean. Due to lack of funding and available expertise, relatively little is known about bird phenology in the region. Along with collecting data, the team took the trip as an opportunity to work with and educate the community about the importance of birds.
“At first, people were scared or indifferent to the birds, but once they saw us handling them, they were asking to touch the birds or if they could release them,” says Brophy. “It was a beautiful transformation to see their viewpoints change from, ‘I don’t care if this animal is alive or dead’, to, ‘This animal is an important and valuable part of our environment.’ People of all ages began to notice the birds, identify the species and track the birds’ movement in the local area.”
Since childhood, Brophy has wanted to bring awareness of the importance of wildlife protection. “Working on this project and engaging with the community about the importance of conservation and protection of animals and the environment is a fulfilling achievement for me,” she says.
Following graduation this coming April, Brophy hopes to work in Resource Protections as an investigator, or be on the other side of things and work with private companies as a consultant to support them in creating policies to preserve the natural environment. Her acceptance into the QES program is one step forward to accomplishing those career goals.
“This opportunity has elevated my ability in the future because it gives me an edge on my resume, and it also has helped my confidence – now I feel I can accomplish anything,” she says.
Rae-Anne Guenther, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University