South Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts at Surrey Fire Hall No. 17 in Rosemary Heights Friday

Firefighters recognize student whose family business was destroyed by fire

Marine Drive fire gutted family business, but Valeria Carvalho maintained grades

Local firefighters have honoured an outstanding South Surrey student for maintaining top marks despite a devastating fire that destroyed her family’s White Rock business last year.

Valeria Carvalho, an 18-year-old Semiahmoo Secondary grad, received $4,000 to put toward her university tuition in a cheque presentation at Surrey Fire Hall No. 17 in Rosemary Heights Friday.

“It’s pretty awesome. I have a very long career ahead of me. It’s just nice to know I do have the support out there, and that there is support out there for students,” Carvalho said.

On March 8, 2015, fire engulfed Gelateria Italia and Coffee Shop at 14901 Marine Dr. Firefighters contained the blaze within two hours, but the business – ran by her parents Jose and Eliete Dos Santos – was destroyed.

Carvalho still managed to find time to volunteer in the community and maintain her grades, earning her a place at University of Victoria this fall. She plans to major in kinesiology with a goal of continuing on to medical school.

“It has been a really tough year, but I needed to maintain my grades,” said Carvalho. “It was hard, but we got through it. We’re still getting through it.”

The bulk of the scholarship, $2,500, comes from the Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society, by way of Ignite a Dream – an annual fundraising event and program that aims to help local students by supporting their education. The White Rock Firefighters Association – touched personally by last year’s Marine Drive fire – contributed another $1,500.

The Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society also honoured another Surrey student Friday, presenting Cecilia Pang with the Dianne Watts Surrey Legacy Award, now in its second year.

Pang, an 18-year-old Fraser Heights Secondary grad, received the $2,500 scholarship for achieving high marks and for her community service.

Pang plans to study life sciences at University of Toronto in the fall, majoring in global health with an eye on a career in pediatrics or humanitarian work.

“I really like children, that’s why I have a focus on pediatrics. I have experience with working and volunteering with them,” she said.

Pang has volunteered with the Free the Children charity, helping build a school in a poor community of Nicaragua, and also Rotary International, with which she assisted with a sanitation project in the Philippines.

 

 

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