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‘She makes big things happen’: Nelson student Avie Waterfall wins multiple scholarships

17-year-old scholar and blacksmith plans to study affordable housing
Avie Waterfall in her father’s metalwork shop, working on a product for her artisan business, which is just one of many activities that won her a dozen scholarships as she leaves Grade 12 at L.V. Rogers Secondary. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Avie Waterfall is only 17, but you’d never know it from her resumé.

She is already an experienced entrepreneur, artisan, scholar, and socially engaged citizen.

As a result of her activities in all of those realms, Waterfall received 12 scholarships amounting to a total of $80,000 on graduating from L.V. Rogers Secondary this year.

She’s headed for the University of Victoria where she plans to study public administration and political science and perhaps go on to study law.

Her goal is to solve the affordable housing crisis.

“The issue is close to home, within Nelson,” she says, “and within my household. It impacts so many people, including myself, and I would really, really like to be a part of creating affordable housing solutions.”

Waterfall was one of 10 students in the country to be granted a $10,000 Horatio Alger National Entrepreneurial Scholarship for students who have displayed leadership qualities and a desire to pursue an entrepreneurial path.

She has an entrepreneurial bent that has shown up in the many activities in her very full life.

Her father, Tony Waterfall, is a blacksmith who has passed on his skills to his daughter. During the early days of the pandemic she noticed everyone taking up bread making, so she began manufacturing a metal tool called a bread lame (pronounced lahm, meaning “blade” in French), a specialized instrument that holds a razor blade at a specific angle to score decorative patterns in bread dough before it is put in the oven.

Avie Waterfall. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Avie Waterfall. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

The business has taken off, with sales of about 600 items in 16 countries mostly through the the online handmade arts site Etsy. Waterfall donates part of the proceeds to community food centres. She has built up an inventory of the bread lames and plans to take them with her to university and keep shipping.

Was she surprised at this business growth?

“So surprised. I initially set out saying that I’m going to sell 100, that’s it. Even if it’s really difficult, 100, then I’ll stop.”

Tony Waterfall is proud of his daughter’s scholarships, but he doesn’t seem surprised.

“She’s worked very hard for this,” he says. “She’s had some encouragement from her mother and myself, but really she was born like this. She has been very organized all her life, very driven, very passionate about whatever she’s put her mind to, and so this is well deserved.”

Waterfall is also a Beedie Luminary. That means she is one of 111 Grade 12 students across the country to win the Beedie Scholarship that, in addition to a financial award, includes mentorship, paid summer internships, and peer support among the other luminaries.

She has also won one of 55 B.C. Excellence Scholarships, as well as a Wilson S.C. Lai entrance scholarship from the University of Victoria, along with a variety of other monetary awards, many of them given by West Kootenay organizations.

A bread lame, this one made by Avie Waterfall, is a tool used by artisan breadmakers. It holds a razor blade at a specific angle to create intricate designs in the loaf before it is baked. Photo: Submitted
A bread lame, this one made by Avie Waterfall, is a tool used by artisan breadmakers. It holds a razor blade at a specific angle to create intricate designs in the loaf before it is baked. Photo: Submitted

A busy life

Waterfall has been busy trying to make the world a better place since Grade 8, when she started a campaign called Youth Fund Leukemia after her grandfather died from leukemia. She researched the disease, gave presentations in classrooms across the school district, started a crowdfunding page, held silent auctions at Nelson’s Marketfest, and donated the results to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.

Waterfall’s mother Candace Mead says ever since the leukemia campaign her daughter has been unstoppable.

“From there it just snowballed and it seemed like every minute of the day she was working on something and then it would be something else.”

In the summer of 2019, Waterfall and a friend designed and printed a cookbook consisting of recipes from local businesses and donated the proceeds to the Nelson Community Food Centre.

She is currently a youth representative on the executive board of the Kootenay-Columbia NDP, and while in high school served as a student trustee on the School District 8 board.

“It was really interesting to see how they conducted their work. We weren’t voting members, but we participated in the discussion up until the votes. So we were able to give our perspective coming from each school.”

During the pandemic she and another student formed an online tutoring service.

“This brought together students who wanted to gain volunteer experience tutoring during the pandemic, and students who needed help with their online learning,” Waterfall says. “We connected them.”

In 2018 she was part of a group that travelled to Mexico to build two sustainable houses made of tetra packs, bottles and concrete.

Waterfall has volunteered with the Nelson Nordic Ski Club for many years and helped to create its Nelson Community Loppit event.

“It worked towards bringing awareness and raising funds for the creation of affordable housing units,” Waterfall says. “So we donated all those funds year after year to the Nelson CARES.”

Waterfall has been a member of Allison Girvan’s youth choirs since she was six, most recently in Corazón, before the choirs all shut down because of the pandemic.

Reflecting on her daughter’s scholarships, Mead says she was impressed by how hard Waterfall worked for them.

“But that’s Avie for you. She makes big things happen, and I’m always very impressed.”

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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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