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Women rising to the top

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Finding the right career can be daunting at times. It seems as though we are expected to know right away what we should be doing for the rest of our lives after we graduate. Sometimes we choose degrees that we think will accommodate our passions, but our lives take a different turn. Two women, Julia Borden, and Christina Stewart, both started out in different fields of work, and as their life shifted gears, they found their passion and started to thrive.

Julia Borden always knew she wanted to be a musician. Her parents put her in ear training music lessons when she was six months old, and she practised piano daily until she eventually started to teach at the young age of 14. “Music has always been my life; I would be nowhere without it,” she says. After she graduated from Strathcona Christian Academy in 2015, she went on to earn a psychology degree at the King’s University. “I knew I wanted to pursue music
instead,” says Borden.

In 2017, Borden decided to pursue her dreams and apply to The Juilliard School, a private and world-renowned performing arts school in New York City. “The application process was long,” she says, explaining that not only did she have to submit a video of herself playing piano, but eventually got a call to do an in-person audition as well. “I used to pick up shifts every day to try and pay for my plane ticket to audition,” Borden says. “When I finally saved up enough money I was like, OK I got this.” In 2017 Borden flew out to The Juilliard School for her audition and was accepted with a scholarship as an international student at the highly competitive school. The acceptance rate at The Juilliard School is 6.9 per cent, and includes alumni such as Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, and Robin Williams.

Before Borden knew it, she was packing up her room and flying out to New York City. “It was obviously scary leaving everything behind, but it really was the most rewarding experience,” Borden says. As she pursued her degree, her passion for piano grew stronger, and the musician started playing shows through the school in San Francisco, Nashville, Las Vegas, and Chicago. “The best part about my experience in New York was the culture and meeting so many talented people,” Borden says.

In 2020, after Borden’s graduation, and the unfortunate wave of a pandemic, the musician decided to return home and teach music. “I believe teaching is what I’m meant to do,” she says. “I think coming back was the best decision for now, but I will definitely visit New York soon.” Borden now teaches music at Crescendo Music Studios in Sherwood Park, and has also started to write some of her own music. Her advice to anyone looking to get into a music career is “always practice, and always look for opportunities to play music.”

Christina Stewart has always been passionate about health and fitness. After she graduated high school, she quickly got married and had kids and eventu-
ally decided to pursue her dreams as a personal trainer. After getting certified in 2005 through canfitpro, Stewart has had more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. When she first started 15 years ago, she was hired at a local Sherwood Park gym. “After I was certified, I started off by cleaning toilets at Female Fitness,” she says. “It sucked, but I knew that’s what I had to do.” Stewart eventually moved to a trainer position at another local gym called Aeroflex.

The trainer eventually branched off on her own and started her own company called Empower Fitness, where she trained women out of her home gym and eventually created spring and summer boot camps to accommodate large groups outside. “What I love most about my job is that I help women gain confidence and reach their fitness goals in healthy ways,” she says. Stewart also obtained her kick- boxing certification and is also certified to create meal plans for her clients who want to improve their nutrition.

In 2009, Stewart trained for a full year to enter a fitness competition. “It was one of the hardest things I had to do physically,” she says. Stewart says her daily routine would consist of waking up at 6 a.m., eating fish and broccoli, and training for two to three hours a day. After her competition, she decided that her passion for fitness lies within helping others live healthy lifestyles.

Today, Stewart trains at Sculpted Finery in Sherwood Park, where she continues to empower women through attainable fitness goals through giving emotional support and sharing her fitness expertise.

Borden and Stewart represent women who are passionate about and willing to succeed in their fields. For those who are nervous about graduating or looking for a job in a specific field, Borden says “there will always be opportunities.” The musician also says that it is okay for people to want to switch careers. “I started out (with) a psychology degree, but I am so glad I studied music.” Women like Borden and Stewart both pursued their passions and continued to work hard while facing some struggles. Stewart says that students should “reach out to someone in your field and start networking; it’s good to connect.”

It is important to remember that there is no set plan for your life, you might know what you want to do one day, and find your true passion the next. Everyone has a different story and with hard work and determination in any field, it is possible to be successful.

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