Leaders, innovators, creators and community builders
Four times a year, we share news of the winners of awards, earners of acknowledgement, and builders of community among NAIT alumni, students and staff. Please join us in congratulating them!
(Know of someone we're missing? Let us know.)
Diagnosis: Exceptional community service
For filling a health-care gap in small-town Alberta, Amy Bespalko (Diagnostic Medical Sonography ’19, pictured above) earned the 2023 Early Professional Achievement Award from Sonography Canada.
Originally from St. Paul, Bespalko returned to her hometown following her studies and time in the industry to start her own clinic, Lakeland Diagnostic Imagining, saving residents long drives for basic diagnostic services. Sonography Canada sets national standards for the profession, provides credentials and acts as an advocate for practitioners.
Hot (and spicy) stuff
BBQ Team NAIT sizzled this season, in particular at Barbeque on the Bow festival in Calgary last August, an event staged by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. Out of 41 teams, NAIT finished 7th overall in the Masters Series. The team was particularly hot in the Brisket segment, ranking 5th.
Members included students Dylan Reimer, Julian Delorme and Zuri Reid, along with grad Mark Austin (Culinary Arts ’22), and coaches Nigel Webber (Culinary Arts ’04, Cook ’94) and Ron Wong (Retail Meat Cutting Certificate ’07, Cooking ’89).
Hip hop history
This summer, musician and filmmaker Arlo Maverick (aka Marlon Wilson, Marketing ’02) released his first full-length documentary, focused on an overlooked aspect of Edmonton’s hip hop history. In the 1980s, the city was a hotspot for breakdancing – a fact brought to light in Untouchable Crew, a look at the rise and legacy of one of the art form’s most prominent groups.
Maverick was granted $20,000 from Telus Storyhive to fund production of the film.
Related: Grad’s documentary spotlights Edmonton’s hip hop history
Twice is nice
This year’s roster of nominations for Alberta’s capstone of the year award, granted by the province’s Association of Science and Engineering Technologists includes not just one project from NAIT but two.
Frank Gauthier, McKenna Bentley and Megan Bauer (all Biomedical Engineering Technology grads, class of ’22) earned the annual honour for Tippy Tappy Toes, a wireless, portable tool for analyzing gait in real-time to gauge progress in the treatment of injuries.
Also in the running is Daniel Sayfullin (Electronics Engineering Technology ’23), recognized for the Polaris, a musical synthesizer he built from scratch in just 15 weeks. The winner will be announced at the end of October.
Related: Inspired by music of the ’80s, NAIT grad builds synthesizer from scratch
Jennifer Spies (Occupational Health and Safety ’19) earned the 2023 Canada’s Safest Employers’ Minerva Award for Rising Star of the Year. A former first responder, Spies turned to the profession after an injury, feeling that a focus on prevention would allow her to continue to pursue her interest in health. Spies was nominated by her manager at an Alberta construction company.
“They were looking for someone to revamp their safety program, and I knew that’s what I could do,” she told Canadian Occupational Safety magazine in October.
Victory despite adversity
Edmonton Convention Centre sous chef Francis Derek Flores (Baking ’14, Culinary Arts ’12) arrived at the National Senior Chefs Culinary Challenge, held in Niagara in June, at a major disadvantage. He and the team discovered that all of their ingredients had been lost along the way.
Rather than give up, they dug in, helped by others on hand to gather what they needed and managed to put a finished dish before the judges just in time – to win a gold medal.
The 9th season of The Amazing Race Canada ended spectacularly for Tyler Smith (Radio and Television – TV '20) and partner Kat Kastner, with the two named champions of the taxing, nationwide event. The couple walked away with two new vehicles, $250,000 and a trip around the world.
“This is a pretty special moment in our lives and a pretty big chapter,” Smith told the Calgary Herald following the airing of the finale.
Related: Humboldt Broncos tragedy survivor Tyler Smith emerges as mental health champion
Acclaim for ambitions in automation
Each year, the International Society of Automation makes a limited selection of scholarship recipients worldwide. Students are identified based on their potential to contribute to the fields of automation, instrumentation and control – and for one day helping to “create a better world through automation.” This year, Instrumentation Engineering Technology student Kadeem Miller caught the attention of the organization, which covers tuition and related expenses through the award.
When life gives you lemons …
In the early 2010s, Simply Supper owner Monita Chapman (Marketing ’06) was navigating a challenging life, with a death in the family and one of her children in hospital. But a lemonade stand with connections to both difficult events inspired her to launch an initiative to help others through their own tough time.
In 2023, Chapman celebrated 10 years of Lemonade Stand Day, an annual event she coordinates across Alberta (and beyond) and that has now raised more than $2 million for the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation.
Related: NAIT grad celebrates 10 years of giving back through Lemonade Stand Day