Concordia University

Bursary motivates student Kayla Starr to strive for excellence in her work

Financial award will help enable the dreams of the future engineer
May 29, 2018
By Joseph Leger

“When I was 13, I knew I wanted to go into civil engineering,” says Kayla Starr. “At my high school we were fortunate to have a structures class, where they taught us about different types of bridges and trusses — or supports. I thought it was so cool that I could see the problem, find a solution, plan it on a computer and then actually build it.”

Starr happened to be naturally gifted and her bridge won first place in the class competition. 

Growing up in the suburbs of Boston, Mass., she visited Montreal several times as a teenager and fell in love with the city. When the time came to decide where to go to university, the decision came easily.

“I had been looking at schools that were really good for civil and structural engineering and I read an article that Concordia was one of the top universities for civil engineering,” explains Starr, who is now in her second year of the civil engineering undergraduate program in the Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering.

She knew one of the challenges she would face in Montreal was difficulty getting work because she doesn’t speak French. This made winning the ERA Environmental Bursary even more special for her. “The bursary had a very big positive impact on me,” Starr says. Her financial stress disappeared. “Yet I now had these people who saw potential in me — and I had to work extra hard to do well in school to make them proud.”

Investment in education

Starr is a strong believer in giving back. She and her two brothers were raised by a single mother and they struggled financially for many years.

“We lived in a battered women’s shelter for much of our childhood,” Starr says. “I remember receiving toys on Christmas from a charity and thinking it was the greatest thing ever. When I go home for Christmas, I wrap toys for children and it’s really special for me.” She also spends summers and holidays volunteering with a charity that delivers furniture and food to families in need. 

Starr is grateful the bursary committee believed in her. Her goal when she completes her degree is to show the investment in her education was worth it. “I’m going to be a great engineer and hopefully improve lives of others,” she says. “It might be building a highway overpass that shortens people’s commute to work, or building a fountain system in a park where families go with their kids.”


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