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EDMONTON, Alta. — Denise Houle has hauled everything from chickens to dynamite from one end of North America to the other. “I know trucks inside out and backwards,” says the 29-year-old, who started trucking when she was 17.

“Ever since I was a little tiny girl, all I wanted to do was drive a truck.”

Now she’s shifting gears with the help of a $1,000 scholarship for students pursuing careers that are traditionally dominated by the opposite sex. She is one of 13 Albertans to receive this year’s Persons Case scholarship, named for the Famous Five who established that Canadian women are persons under the law.

Houle never expected to be a “strong role model for women,” as her congratulatory letter calls her. She just likes pursuits that most people don’t associate with women. She started working on her father’s commercial fishing boat in Powell River, B.C., when she was 13, and took a heavy-duty mechanics course after high school.

She logged more than 1.9 million kilometers trucking through 42 states and most of Canada.

But a scare with cervical cancer in 1998 stopped her in her tracks. She decided she didn’t want to risk getting sick in the U.S., so she enrolled in Grant MacEwan College’s police and security program.

Now, she is one semester away from being qualified to be a “truck cop,” or motor transport officer, with Alberta Infrastructure, ensuring the big trucks on the road are operating safely.

“I definitely know that this is what I want,” she says. “There’s a handful of women in Infrastructure and I want to be one of them.”

–The Journal (Edmonton)

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