Community connectedness

cansave banner crWhat do a group that supports grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa, a fire department in the North Okanagan and the visual history of Kelowna have in common?

They’ve all realized the benefit of the energy and enthusiasm of Okanagan College students and staff.

Okanagan College – with more than 1,100 employees and 19,000 students attending its four campuses and nine other educational centres annually – contributes significantly to the economic, social and cultural fabric of the region it serves (six times the size of Prince Edward Island).

Its connections to the community go well beyond what you might expect, however.

The Predator Ridge Fire Hall, for instance, boasts custom cupboards built by an entry-level Okanagan College carpentry/joinery class. Julia Braun was one of the 12 foundation program students who took a leading role in the hands-on curriculum project.

“It gave us a real-life perspective and understanding of what it will be like doing this kind of work out in the real world,” she said. “It’s really cool to be involved in a community project because you feel more invested in your work and it increases the value of a project.”

Kelowna Grandmothers for Africa hosted an event in November, 2015 – and then again in 2016 – and the junior chefs of Okanagan College’s culinary program (with guidance from their instructors) created, prepared and served delicious meals that made the fundraiser a huge success and with their support, the group is expanding the event. (Kelowna Grandmothers for Africa raises funds and promotes awareness for grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa who are raising grandchildren orphaned by the AIDS pandemic.)

The visual history of Kelowna – visit facebook.com/oldkelowna – was the brainchild of Okanagan College English Professor Shona Harrison, a fourth-generation resident of Kelowna, who was sparked to create the page when an old family photo garnered a great deal of attention. Today the Old Kelowna page is approaching 17,000 likes. But the connections to community go far, far beyond these examples. And they are part of a two-way network that contributes to the quality of education and experience that Okanagan College students get.

And the students themselves create considerable connections.

The Okanagan College Enactus group for instance, celebrated its 10th year of operation in 2015-16 and extended its record of community service with a new project – CAN$ave -which helps teach financial literacy to Grade 1 and Grade 3 students. More than 200 students benefited from the first year of the project and the student numbers are about to swell dramatically in the coming year through partnerships and community support.

Click here to go back to the OC Community Report 2016 homepage.