Graduating student Jessica Byers said she would not be the person she is today without the Haliburton Curling Club.

Byers and fellow student Dustyn McCready-DeBruin each earned $500 bursary awards from the club for their efforts over the years, announced May 10.

Byers said she began curling with the club in Grade 5 and it meant a lot to her to receive the bursary after all her years there. “I’ll be going to post-secondary, so any contributions to help with that is obviously very appreciated,” Byers said. “I was just happy with myself and was grateful for the opportunity.”

“It means a lot. The curling club has really supported me since I joined in Grade 4,” McCready-DeBruin said. “It just means a lot as they’re still supporting students as they move to a different stage in their life.”

Byers and McCready-DeBruin are both alumni of the club’s youth curling program and spent their high school years volunteering there, coaching younger curlers.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping kids because I was a pretty shy person,” Byers said. “It’s nice to see if you keep trying, you’ll get to a point where you’re more confident and you can see they’re successful and happy.”

Club director Wanda Stephen said after not awarding the bursary last year as there were no graduating students from the club, they felt comfortable giving out two awards this year. She said Byers and McCreadyDeBruin stood out amongst applicants.

“They’ve been so committed to the youth curling program at the curling club. They come every week, several times a week, to help with the youngsters,” Stephen said. “All the adults really, really love having the younger curlers curl with us.”

She added the youth program is still going strong, with 40 kids involved and 17 high schoolers. Byers said she became passionate about the game because of its strategy, friendly competition and social atmosphere. She added it was good club members were supportive when she started into adult leagues.

“I was very lucky to have those members of the club appreciate having kids out there because not every club is like that. It felt good to show the product of the youth program,” Byers said.

“It’s a really close knit community and it just feels great to be apart of it,” McCreadyDeBruin said.

That experience would help Byers and McCready-DeBruin lead decorated high school curling careers. Byers had second and fourth place finishes at provincials, two all star nods and a COSSA silver. McCready-DeBruin also achieved strong results on the boys’ side, with fourth and sixth place finishes at provincials and COSSA gold and silver.

Now, Byers and McCready-DeBruin have their sights set on varsity curling. Byers has a spot secured at Humber College, where she will be studying interior design. McCready-DeBruin plans to play at Dalhousie University, where he’ll study marine biology.

“I’m just grateful for all of them. I know they’re super supportive of me,” Byers said of the Haliburton club.

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