The excitement was palpable in Skylar Ackerman’s voice as she talked about receiving a $2,500 scholarship from Curling Canada under the organization’s For the Love of Curling program.
Ackerman, 18, from Chamberlain, was one of 10 curlers from across Canada to receive the scholarship, which provides some financial support for the youths’ post-secondary education. Ackerman — who graduated from A.E. Peacock Collegiate in June and was class valedictorian — is studying kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan, with the goal of becoming a physiotherapist.
“I feel really honoured to receive it. It’s really humbling to know that the curling community is recognizing me for my accomplishments in curling and in the classroom,” Ackerman told the Moose Jaw Express. “It just makes me feel really good and really happy. It will obviously help me a lot as I go to university this year.”
Curling Canada received 62 applications from across the country for its scholarship, which is one of the highlighted initiatives of the organization’s philanthropic program, according to a news release. A selection committee then whittled down the list of applicants to 10 recipients.
The scholarship program is an investment in Canada’s curling community, with applicants assessed on their academic accomplishments and aspirations, their curling achievements, and their volunteer contributions within the community. Ackerman volunteered with the curling program at Lindale School and also helped with the Special Olympics curing program.
The successful recipients can use the award to cover a portion of their education and curling costs during the 2019-20 school year.
Ackerman also received a $5,000 scholarship in mid-June from the Sandra Schmirler Foundation under the Spirit of Sandra awards program. The Peacock graduate was excited to receive this prize. She pointed out even being mentioned in the same sentence as the legendary Canadian curler is an honour.
“She was such an amazing lady and amazing curler and it makes me feel really good to be able to be part of her legacy and carry out what she wanted to do,” Ackerman added.
Schmirler was from Biggar and won the first Olympic gold medal for women's curling in 1998. She died from cancer at the age of 36 in 2000. The Sandra Schmirler Foundation was then created in 2001.
Ackerman has watched videos of the Olympian’s many victories in Canada and internationally. Moreover, she regularly curls against Schmirler’s daughter, Sara England, and even competed against her last season in the provincial final.
Ackerman has curled for the past eight years and has always loved the sport, she said. She grew up as a rink rat since she followed her parents and brother around the province whenever they curled. From there she “caught the bug” and became enthusiastic about playing.
She loves everything about the sport, she continued. This includes competing against friends, continually evolving in the technical, physical and mental aspects of the game, and learning new strategies.
Curling has been good to Ackerman and she has done quite well over the years, she said. She and her team went to nationals three times, winning a silver medal in the U18 championship in 2018 in New Brunswick, her biggest accomplishment so far.
This year Ackerman joined a new team out of Saskatoon since her old team went its separate ways. Two of the girls were going to school in different provinces, which made competing together impossible.
After competing in a mixed doubles bonspiel this weekend, Ackerman will join her new team in three weeks and hit the ice for a new season of curling.