Alumna named Miss N.L. set to inspire others

Nov 19th, 2015

Jeff Green

Alumna named Miss N.L. set to inspire others

A Memorial alumna is savouring the glory of being named Miss Newfoundland and Labrador, a role she hopes will bolster the profile of several volunteer groups and inspire young women to focus on educational goals.

“I feel like I can provide some guidance to young women and show them a solid education can lead to opportunity,” said Melanie Barnes, who holds both a bachelor of science (honours) degree in earth sciences and a master of science from Memorial. She’s also a fellow of the School of Graduate Studies. She’s currently working on the St. John’s campus as a research assistant in the Department of Earth Sciences and has secured a job with ExxonMobil next year as a geophysics intern.

“I was really surprised,” she said of clinching the competition’s top spot. “Up until this year, I was always engulfed in university life so I could never enter.”

The pageant – held each fall in Bay Roberts – emphasizes academics, volunteer leadership, fitness and health.

“All things that are important to me,” said Ms. Barnes, 26.

One of the groups she hopes to raise the profile of is the Central Avalon Ground Search and Rescue Team. It covers a massive chunk of the Avalon – everywhere west of St. John’s covering the Cape and Southern Shores, noted Ms. Barnes, who is a certified ice water rescue technician with the organization.

Another group is Newfoundland Search Dogs Inc., which is working to become registered. It’s members and their dogs will be able to provide “essential help,” during active search and rescue missions. Ms. Barnes is the group’s vice-president and a board director. She’s currently training her Bernese Mountain dog, Ella, to take part in such operations.

“These groups are very important to me,” she said. “If I can help elevate the important work they do, then that’s a win-win situation.

“No one realizes the importance of these search groups until they’ve been involved. Ideally, I’d like to leverage my position as Miss Newfoundland and Labrador to help promote organizations and small charities that I believe in and that are doing selfless acts of kindness throughout the province.”

As the current titleholder, Ms. Barnes wants to also inspire young girls and women to see the possibilities that come with a science education. She’s credits the “amazing team of profs” in the Department of Earth Sciences – including Honorary Research Professor Dr. Jeremy Hall and University Research Professor Dr. Ali Aksu – for instilling in her the possibilities that come with a strong educational background.

“I find earth sciences very intriguing,” she noted. “I’ve been lucky, as part of my studies here at Memorial, to travel to Turkey twice – once in 2011 and again in 2014 – where I’ve spent upwards of two months taking part in research cruises interpreting seismic data and images. You don’t get many opportunities like that. I firmly believe Memorial has set me up for a solid career.”