In his natural habitat, Kelly Riehl is most likely to be wearing hip waders and a ball cap while fishing in a lake, river or ocean. So when he got the call to visit Canada’s House of Commons, he had to make a wardrobe choice.
“I'm glad I wore a suit,” says Riehl, a second-year Renewable Resource Management student. “Part of me told me not to, but I'm glad I listened to the part that did.”
A life-long outdoor enthusiast who worked as a professional fishing guide before coming to Lethbridge College, Riehl was one of 10 winners from across Canada of a prestigious scholarship awarded by the Parliamentary Outdoor Caucus. He was the only scholarship recipient from Alberta, among a field of university, college and technical institute students.
Riehl traveled to Ottawa in February to accept his award and received a guided tour of Parliament from members of the Outdoor Caucus. He was able to sit in the seats of both the Prime Minister and Speaker of the House, and watched a Parliamentary session from the gallery.
“The experience of going to Ottawa was something I couldn’t really believe,” says Riehl. “I never thought that having a fishing problem could take you to the big chair – it’s just the one thing that I love doing in life. It's kind of funny. I enjoyed it, it was a fantastic experience to meet the people that make decisions for fish and wildlife in Canada.”
Riehl was leading fishing expeditions on Haida Gwaii off British Columbia’s west coast in the summer of 2017 when he was accepted to Lethbridge College. Having worked in the outdoor adventure, outfitting and sport fishing industries, the conservation aspect of the program piqued his interest.
It was that change in career path that made him eligible for the Parliamentary Outdoor Caucus award. “It was designed for somebody who came from a very strong background in hunting and fishing, who was getting out of that and into the realm of conservation,” says Riehl.
“Essentially, moving out of using the resources and moving into protecting them for future generations.” Riehl will return to Lethbridge College this fall to finish his Renewable Resource Management diploma and may pursue his Ecosystem Management applied degree. His experiences at Lethbridge College, combined with his own interests and background, are starting to shed light on where his career could take him.
“There are the conservation and enforcement ends of this career – and then there is the science side,” says Riehl. “I’ve found that my interests leaned towards the science side, so you could say I found myself at Lethbridge College and I know what direction I want to go to now. It's definitely opened the doors to what's out there. Once you get into school and make that choice to go, it's amazing what you'll discover.”