Impact Stories

Impact Stories ​

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Rise project lifts trades students

Brittany Couchman sharing her experiences on the Home for Learning project.For Okanagan College carpentry student Brittany Couchman building a new home from the ground up has been “an amazing experience.”

“I've learned so many skills, from reading a tape measure, to reading code and using hand tools, and lots of math,” says Couchman, a Vernon campus student.

She is one of 12 Carpenter Foundation program students taking part in this year's Home for Learning project, unveiled to community members and media May 29.

This year's project marks Okanagan College's 60th Home for Learning, an initiative that involves carpentry students spending 14 weeks on a job site learning all aspects of modern construction.

“Our students have helped build daycares, condos, horse barns, sheds and beautiful homes such as this one on The Rise,” says Teresa Kisilevich, Okanagan College Associate Dean of Trades.

“There is always a certain pride when you build something with your own hands. These students will always be able to look at this house and say ‘I helped build that.’”

Keith Construction is this year's Home for Learning partner, mentoring students as they build a new duplex. Keith Construction owner Ken Dahlen says his company was pleased to get behind the project and help coach future trades students, which are in high demand.

“Our industry is struggling to find skilled workers, and forecasts say that 40,000 people will be retiring in our industry in the next 10 years,” says Dahlen.

“It's important for young people entering trades careers to understand the need for a post-secondary education. Homes today are highly engineered, and not as easy to build without understanding the building code.”

In addition to being this year's Home for Learning partner, Keith Construction was a major sponsor of Okanagan College’s new Trades Training Centre in Vernon. Dahlen says local facilities and programs are important for the community, providing an opportunity for young people to stay at home and get an education. Dahlen announced that Keith Construction and other trades are adding a special fundraiser to the Home for Learning project.

Students taking part in 2019 Home for Learning.

Dahlen says a number of trades are providing preferred pricing on their products and services. Once the home is completed and sold, Keith Construction will donate a portion of its proceeds to future trades training at the College.

“Construction has been very good to our family, and I'm happy to support students,” Dahlen says.

Michael Collins from Quad-Lock was one of the suppliers to offer its product, airfoam (insulated concrete forms) at cost to the project. An engineer on his team also provided a full day of learning on their products with students.

“Anytime you can give back to the community where we live, we are all the better for it,” says Collins.

Vernon's Home Building Centre is supplying a number of products at or below cost, including windows from Gentek Building Products and exterior doors from Masonite. Other companies offering preferred pricing include JP Garage Doors, Livingwood Floors, D & B Home Fires, Jespersen Electric, Reliance Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning, and Farrer Rentals.

“We are training our future clients, and we are happy to be involved,” says Gary Gilchrist, Home Building Centre Owner.

For students, meeting experienced trades gives them a glimpse into the near future.

“I am so glad I chose carpentry. It is so interesting, and it gives me the opportunity to have a career that will support my kids,” Couchman says.

“I am really proud of this project.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Business graduate sets up award to celebrate perseverance

A new student award at Okanagan College will celebrate the perseverance and determination needed to be successful in school.

Suzanne Newton completed her business degree at Okanagan College Penticton campus last year, and is now a College employee working as a Division Assistant in Advancement & Alumni.

Suzanne Newton accepting a student award in 2015.Newton says she established the $1,000 annual award to recognize the challenges some people experience when returning to school, especially students who rely on student loans. It’s a challenge Newton knows well. Initially, she tried to work while going to school full time and raising her son. Juggling work, school and family landed her on academic probation. 

Once she realized she could not manage work and her studies she turned to student loans, which didn’t fully cover the costs of attending school.

This spurred Newton to begin applying for student scholarships and bursaries, which were instrumental in helping her achieve her goals. During her four-year degree, she received $15,000 in student awards, a major support that still brings tears to Newton’s eyes when she thinks about complete strangers helping her achieve her dreams.

“I know the crunch of relying on student loans and worrying about money,” says Newton. “When I saw other people were willing to invest in me and my future, I said to myself that one day I would be in a position to do the same for another student.”

The Suzanne Newton Perseverance Inspires Success Award will be available to any student on the Penticton campus. Applicants will be asked, “What have you had to overcome to be here?”

“It’s heartening to see people who’ve benefited from student awards go on to help other students,” says Anne Kirkpatrick, Okanagan College Foundation Interim Executive Director.

“This award recognizes the important role a donor plays in helping students be successful and we’re grateful to Suzanne for paying it forward.”  

Newton has advice for anyone questioning continuing school, which she acknowledges can be particularly difficult for mature students with families.

“Don’t just stop because you’ve hit a roadblock, very few students don’t hit roadblocks. Know that you can get through it and it will get better. I hope this award touches someone and gives them hope.”

Wednesday, March 27


Armstrong Co-op delivers new tools for trades students

A co-operative that has a nearly 100-year history in the community is supporting the next generation of skilled trades workers with a donation of new tools to Okanagan College Vernon campus.

ArmstrongCoopArmstrong Regional Cooperative has donated $5,000 to the new Trades Training Centre to purchase state-of-the-art tools for the students in the more than seven programs offered in the new Centre.

“A big part of our business model is supporting the community,” explains Jason Keis, Armstrong Regional Cooperative Marketing and Sales Manager.

“We were excited to invest in students entering the trades, especially as the trades are so connected to our business.”

Armstrong Co-op operates gas and convenience stores in Vernon, Salmon Arm and Armstrong as well as cardlock fueling stations. The company also offers fuel delivery within the Okanagan-Shuswap and many of those deliveries are to contractors and construction sites.

The donated tools were delivered on a pallet and unveiled to students who responded with a round of applause. The new equipment ranged from air-powered nail guns to welding helmets, electric sanders and socket sets.

“We have a beautiful new trades facility and this donation means our students will have access to the very latest tools as well, so they’re training on the same equipment they’ll encounter when they step out onto the jobsite,” says Steve Moores, Dean of Trades at Okanagan College.

“We’re grateful to the Armstrong Regional Cooperative for supporting students – it sends a message to them that local employers believe in them and want to see them be successful in their chosen trades.”

Armstrong Regional Cooperative has a long history of supporting community through annual donations to a number of different organizations and community events. As a co-operative, the Armstrong Co-op is owned by its members who as owners, share in the co-op’s profits. Last year, the co-op returned just over $3.7 million in cash and equity to its 17,500 members.

“If you are not buying from a co-op, the money may be going somewhere else and not back to your community,” says Keis. “When you buy from your local co-operative, you’re truly supporting your community.”



Thursday, Feb. 21

MQN sets foundation for next generation of tradespeople

For students stepping into trades training at Okanagan College, several new bursaries established by MQN Architecture and Interior Design will help provide a solid foundation.

The MQN Architecture and Interior Design Awards for Vernon Trades will provide two annual $750 bursaries for any student entering a trades foundation program. A $1,000 bursary will be awarded annually to a woman entering a trades foundation program.

MQN“We believe in mentoring and teaching the next generation of designers and trades people. When looking at how we could do more, we decided providing financial support was the missing piece,” says Dora Anderson, a partner at MQN.

“Had we not been given a hand up or support when starting out in our careers, who knows, we may not be here today.”

MQN is one of the largest architectural firms in the B.C. interior, based in Vernon. The firm has a long history of working with the College, having been the architect for its Centre for Learning at the Kelowna campus. Most recently, MQN was the architect for the College’s new Trades Training Centre in Vernon.

Anderson says their firm sees first-hand the need for more skilled trades people in the Okanagan, making the opportunity to work on the Vernon Trades Centre a special contribution to their community.

“For students to see that they can get trained and stay home and support their community is pretty exciting,” she says.

Anderson adds that creating a women in trades bursary was particularly significant for her and other female staff at MQN. When MQN started it was all male partners. Today the firm is managed by two male and two female partners.

“It’s a huge honour to give a hand up to another woman who aspires to push ahead in a field that is typically a male-dominated environment,” says Anderson.

“With this bursary, we want women to know that there is a place for you in this industry and a place for you to excel.” 

Samantha Cook, 24, from Enderby is the first female recipient of the MQN Architecture and Interior Design Award. She is currently enrolled in the Carpenter Foundation program. She says her goal is to help find solutions to the housing crisis affecting some Indigenous communities that lack infrastructure, or where aging buildings may contain mould and provide poor living conditions.

“I am so grateful to accept this award. This will help me focus on my studies right now, but it will also help my community after I graduate,” says Cook.

“We are thankful to MQN for their generous gift, which will support students and increase access to trades training in the North Okanagan,” says Jim Hamilton, Okanagan College President. 

“Not only do we have a have leading-edge trades training facility in Vernon but a community of businesses and individuals who are investing in students’ futures.”

As a result of the recent fundraising campaign for the new Vernon Trades Training Centre, there is more than $200,000 available for student awards, bursaries and program support for students entering the trades at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus.

The Trades Training Centre was recently recognized with an Award of Excellence for Best Institutional Project at the Thompson Okanagan Kootenay Commercial Building Awards.

Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019

Anthony Lunelli of Anthony's Subaru helping students stay on course

Anthony Lunelli is the general manager of Anthony’s Subaru, a second-generation family-owned business. His parents donated $50,000 to the new Trades Training Complex at Kelowna campus. Anthony is also a board member with the New Car Dealer’s Foundation of B.C., which gives $10,000 annually to support students in automotive and business at Okanagan College. 

Picture of Anthony Lunelli at Okanagan College
Why do you give?

For me, giving back to Okanagan College is personal. My dad went to school here in the late 60s and early 70s for upgrading his mechanic’s ticket. I did my Business degree here 10 years ago, and two of my sisters went to OC. 

The College has great teachers who have lots of good expertise that helped frame my perspectives. I’ve taken a little bit from so many of my professors. 

With having a family-run business, it is important to have well trained employees. Every person we’ve hired over the years from Okanagan College has great knowledge and has always worked out well. Over the years, our family has valued the training from the College and always wants to give back. 

I joined the New Car Dealer’s Foundation of B.C. several years ago because I wanted to get more involved in giving to local communities. Through the New Car Dealer’s Foundation, we were able to establish a number of annual scholarships for students taking automotive and business at Okanagan College.

It feels amazing to be able to give back to the same school that made me successful in my career and shaped the person I am today.


Friday, Feb. 8, 2019

Gateway program gives students the tools they need to succeed in school and life

DesireeTachit2Last year, 19-year-old Desiree Tachit found herself struggling with anxiety, depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms. The idea of applying to or attending college was not something she could fathom at the time. A hands-on experience with tools and training by Okanagan College and Central School changed all that.

Now, a graduate of Gateway – a unique collaborative program designed to connect high school students with the skilled trades – Tachit has applied to not one but two programs at the College, Sheet Metal Worker and Heavy Mechanical Trades. Regardless of which path she ends up pursuing, she’ll have some help along the way. She was recently awarded four scholarships to help pay for her future education.

“This program inspires you to take life by the reins,” says Tachit, adding the program has given her new hope for the future.

Graduates of the Gateway program shared their personal journeys and success stories with the public at a special graduation ceremony at Okanagan College Jan. 25. The innovative program is a partnership between the College and Central School, which typically supports students who have challenges learning in a traditional school environment.

The 10-week course is open to students attending Central School and provides an introduction to various trades offered at Okanagan College. Students have an opportunity to try carpentry, electrical work, sheet metal and culinary arts. But the program is much broader than just an introduction to trades. Gateway focuses on the students' holistic growth and development by supporting youth in attending a wide array of social activities and community events.

“We believe a focus on community building enables the students to be successful,” explains Rob Law, Central Programs Gateway Coordinator. 

“Gateway is about placing students in new experiences, highly supported, and allowing them to struggle, learn and grow.”

The students went canoeing, biking, hiking and read to Grade 3 students. The youth spent several days at Big While (courtesy of Big White) skiing, tubing, skating as well as a spaghetti dinner with firefighters at the Big White Fire Department.

Gateway graduates smile for a photo Jan. 25.
For Clinton McIntyre, 16, who describes himself as someone who typically prefers to stay in his room and play video games, the program helped him make friends and step out of his comfort zone.

Alex Nitsch describes himself as in a slump and often skipping school prior to Gateway. During the program he had an opportunity to spend five days job shadowing on a construction site where he was given an opportunity to operate a rock truck. He loved it. He’s now applied to Heavy Mechanical Trades and hopes to complete a dual credit program, where he finishes his high school credentials at the College while also earning a trade certificate.

“Gateway taught me to just stick things out, and not give up,” says Nitsch.

Now in its eighth year, the Gateway grad ceremony also featured several students from years past who shared their success stories.

“I asked to speak today because I wanted to tell everyone how honoured I was to be part of this program,” says Brittany Hill, who describes herself as a troublemaker in high school, resulting in her not graduating with her friends.

“I am now in my Professional Cook Level 2 (at Okanagan College). Culinary has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I am no longer a failure going down my failing path. I am me, being my own person, heading towards a dream I’ve always dreamed of being.”

During the event, the two lead instructors for the program were given mugs with the printed phase ‘I’m a teacher, what’s your super power?’ as well as a heart-felt thank you from the students.

“It was fantastic to see the students build confidence,” says Kelly Brochu, a vocational instructor at Okanagan College who taught this year’s Gateway program.

“With a hands-on approach instead of just using their minds, the students were able to find success where they haven’t found success before. Once they find that success, the sky is the limit.”

The Gateway program runs each year from November to January and is funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training.

Donors to the Okanagan College Foundation and community donors provided scholarships to support students who want to continue their studies at the College. Scholarships were provided by the Joyce Family Foundation, Dee Capozzi, Dr. Steve and Terry Tuck, Rotary Club of Kelowna and the Gary Bennett Family Fund, as well as other supporters.


Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019

Broken leg sets in motion a love for physics 

It’s hard to imagine a broken leg being a good thing, but that’s exactly how Brandon Katerberg describes a longboarding accident that led him to Okanagan College.  

Prior to his accident, Katerberg, 20, was working at a painting shop and describes himself living day to day with little direction for where he wanted to go in life. When he learned that his broken leg would result in a permanent rod inside his left leg, he knew he wouldn’t be able to continue to work physical jobs for the long-term.
Brandon KaterbergThis got Katerberg thinking about going back to school and he soon began upgrading at Okanagan College Penticton campus, with the goal of continuing on to get an arts degree. 

Katerberg describes his experience at OC as completely different than high-school. 

“Okanagan College changed my perspective on what school was like, I used to hate school but at the College I felt at home,” says Katerberg, adding there is a mutual respect between professors and students that motivated him to try his best.

“It was a pleasant experience coming back.”

Upgrading also launched a new passion for Katerberg: physics and mathematics. In high-school Katerberg rarely showed up to classes so it wasn’t until the College that he discovered he was skilled in sciences. Seeing this potential, Katerberg quickly changed his focus to science where he is excelling. In his past term, he received a 99 per cent in calculus, and a 97 per cent in physics. 

“Brandon’s a great success story,” says Ryan Ransom, a professor of Physics and Astronomy, adding Brandon’s a joy to teach.

“He has the aptitude but he doesn’t rely on it, he works really hard and he loves the material. His enthusiasm and curiosity also rubs off on his peers.”

Katerberg’s achievements have also amassed three student awards from the Okanagan College Foundation. Katerberg says these funds have been instrumental in helping pay for his first full semester, where he is taking six courses.

“It feels so great to have some financial relief. It’s also validation of my work, which feels good.”

In September, Katerberg is transferring to the University of Victoria where he is hoping to be accepted to their Physics Honours program.  

“Breaking my leg was the best thing that ever happened to me. I feel a sense of purpose. I feel that the work I am doing will one day pay off to society in some way,” says Katerberg.

“I’m a happier, more focused person overall.”



Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019


School life-changing experience for student

When Jenna Tulak received her acceptance letter to Okanagan College Vernon campus, she remembers screaming for joy and calling everyone she knew to share the good news.

Jenna Tulak accepts award from Rob PhareTulak, 31, had wanted to pursue higher education since graduating high school but a lack of funds and social anxiety kept her from pursuing her goal.

Instead of going to school, Tulak struggled to find a job, working a series of minimum wage roles for more than 10 years. The experience was difficult for Tulak, who says she often felt invisible. During this time, Tulak’s mother passed away. It was this major loss that emboldened her to start making changes in her life.

“I couldn’t take the stress of being insignificant anymore. I decided I was going to make my mother proud and I was going to go to school,” she recalls.

Tulak was nervous about starting school again, having been fearful of social situations in the past. However, her worries were quickly abated once she started attending classes.

“I started to love every moment of it. I started to make friends when I’d never had friends before and that was wonderful,” says Tulak.

“After I finished my first year, I thought, ‘wow, this was the best decision I had ever made.’”

“I think coming back to school saved my life in many ways that I can’t even begin to fathom.”

Tulak also discovered what she wanted to specialize in, creative writing. 

“I want to be a teacher and I want to come back and teach creative writing here because it was so powerful and I know I have to do that for the next generation to show them that they have a voice and we need their voices.”

Tulak has been funding her education mostly through student loans. She recently also received a student award from donors to the Okanagan College Foundation.

“The support of the donors has taken the load off and you can focus on your studies and allow yourself to excel rather than thinking are you going to be able to feed yourself,” says Tulak. 

“Having the support of the donors has been amazing, the fact that they’ve helped and they’ve chosen me to be helped is more than words can express.”

Tulak is currently finishing her diploma in writing and publishing with plans to attend UBC Okanagan (UBCO) in the fall, where she will pursue a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing.

Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019


OC health care grad already making an impact in the field

When Zaynah Stewart crosses the stage to accept her Health Care Assistant certificate from Okanagan College on Jan. 12, she will do so with the satisfaction of already having a job firmly secured.

Picture of Zaynah StewartIn fact, Stewart had three job offers to choose from after graduating from the six-month Health Care Assistant program, which provides the skills and training for people interested in providing direct client care to seniors and people with disabilities.

“It feels great to already have a position,” says Stewart. “The best part of my job is seeing how happy individuals are when I’m caring for them.”

Stewart, 25, began her career working in administrative positions but never lost sight of her lifelong dream to become a nurse. When she decided to follow her passion and go back to school, she discovered another health care career she’d never considered when she learned about the College’s Health Care Assistant program.

The program instantly appealed to her because of its short duration, which offered a chance to step into the health care field quickly. 

“There are so many advancement opportunities in the health-care sector, and it’s a quick program to see if the health-care sector is right for you,” explains Stewart.

“I would recommend the program to anyone interested in a health-care career. It’s provides a strong foundation in how to give good care.” 

Stewart is one of 31 graduates from the College’s most recent intakes of the HCA program, which ran in Salmon Arm and Kelowna.

“There is a huge need for health care assistants across the province,” says Angela Godler, Chair of the Health Care Assistant program at Okanagan College.

“Not only is it an in-demand career, but the program offers opportunity for personal growth through the education process and a rewarding career as a caregiver, developing relationships with your clients while providing direct care.”

Okanagan College offers the Health Care Assistant program at all of its campuses with new programs starting in February in Oliver, February and October in Vernon, May in Salmon Arm and May and August in Kelowna.

According to WorkBC, health care assistants have been identified as a priority occupation for the B.C. Ministry of Health. Average employment growth rates in this field are forecasted at 13 per cent to 2022, with no sign of slowing down. This demand is anticipated to increase even more after the Government of B.C. announced funding to increase staffing levels in residential care homes for seniors, which aims to fund more than 900 health care assistants by 2021.

The health care assistant program is just one of eight health and social development programs that will be housed in the College’s new $18.9-million Health Sciences Centre, now under construction at the Kelowna campus. The modern Centre will provide technology-enhanced and student-centred labs and classrooms and is planned to open in fall 2020.


Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019

Olympic hopeful gets lift from Okanagan College donors

Thanks to the generosity of donors to Okanagan College, students are able to gain an education and for some, pursue big dreams at the same time.

Hannah Mehain is one such student. At age 20, she's in her second year of science at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus with the goal of studying medicine or physiotherapy.

Hannah accepts an award from donors

She is also an accomplished cross country skier, who just last week made the Canadian World Junior/U23 Championships team. She will be travelling to Finland in January to compete with the best in the world. After that, her eyes are on the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"If I did not have the financial support from the College I likely would not be able to compete in cross-country skiing at a high level while going to school," says Mehain.

"Having that support, I can devote my time and energy into doing very well at both. It makes a huge difference."

Mehain is one of 977 students who received scholarships and bursaries from Okanagan College and the Okanagan College Foundation this year. In total, more than $1.1 million was given to students, with much of the funds made possible through the generous support of donors.


"I want to thank everyone who is helping make my dream and other students' dreams possible," says Mehain.

She adds that the College professors have been extremely supportive of her athletic endeavors, providing her with flexibility to complete her studies while attending competitions.

“I love going to school every day because I am interested in the material I am learning and because the professors are passionate and knowledgeable about the material they are teaching,” says Mehain.

In November, nearly $500,000 was handed out to students at three awards ceremonies in Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon. The fall award ceremonies provide a timely boost of support for students as the holidays approach. The ceremonies also play an important role in connecting students with the individuals and organizations behind the awards.

“Community support is a significant ingredient in the recipe for student success,” notes Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.

“Whether it allows students to pursue their studies while chasing other goals or whether it just relieves some of the financial stress associated with their education that help means a great deal.”

Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018


OC community raises $12,000 for students

Thanks to the generosity of the Okanagan College community more than $12,000 was raised to support students and new facilities on Giving Tuesday.
OC staff and students smile for a photo on Giving TuesdayThis was the first year Okanagan College participated in Giving Tuesday, a global day dedicated to giving and volunteering taking place each year after Black Friday. 

In honour of the day, the Okanagan College Foundation ran a series of short profiles recognizing and celebrating staff and faculty who give back. The Foundation also hosted a number of events to engage staff on the Kelowna campus.

“We can’t thank the Okanagan College community enough for their support,” says Kathy Butler, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director. “Participation from staff, faculty and our larger community shows that caring really does start here.” 

Some of the funds raised will go toward the new Health Sciences Centre, currently under construction on the Kelowna campus. A number of other gifts were directed to student scholarships and support.

“I have been here for 18 years and I’m grateful to come to work every day. I feel very fortunate and now it is my turn to give back,” says Angelika March, Assistant to the Regional Dean Kelowna campus, who participated in the giving campaign.

The Okanagan College Foundation would like to give special thanks to the different departments for contributing with in-kind support:

• Food Services for providing Cookies and Coffee

• Carpentry Trades & Gateway to Trades for Youth program for providing Christmas ornaments

• Okanagan College Alumni Association for providing the wine prizes

• OCSU Kelowna for hosting a Food Pantry collection bin


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Awards a ‘tremendous relief’ for aspiring nurse

Okanagan College student Jenna Kellerman

Jenna Kellerman recently wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and B.C. Premier John Horgan to highlight the challenges for people living in poverty.

Prior to starting upgrading at Okanagan College, Kellerman, a single mother of four boys, would never have dreamed she’d be advocating on issues to government leaders.

“Going back to school has given me the confidence and the voice to speak up,” says Kellerman.

“It’s made me think from a different point of view. I’m not scared to speak up anymore, I am maturing as a person and finding my voice.”

Kellerman is currently completing upgrading in order to pursue her dream career as a Licensed Practical Nurse. While in the past, Kellerman wouldn’t describe herself as doing well in school, she’s worked hard to achieve high grades and set an example for her sons.

Her hard work is paying off in more ways than one. Kellerman is being recognized with two awards from the Okanagan College Foundation.

“It’s such an honour to receive these awards and a tremendous relief,” says Kellerman, adding one of the awards brought her to tears when she learned it came from professors at the College.

Pic of Jenna Kellerman and her four sons“These awards will go a long way in helping me pay for my education.”

Kellerman is one of approximately 385 students who will be receiving scholarships and bursaries at three awards receptions hosted by Okanagan College. The first event took place in Penticton Nov. 14, followed by Vernon tonight and Kelowna Nov. 22.

The award receptions are an opportunity for people in the community who set up scholarships to meet the students and learn first-hand how the financial support is helping them succeed in school.

In total, nearly $500,000 will be awarded to Okanagan College students.

“Community support means a great deal to our students and our institution,” observes Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.

“Awards open doors for students and recognize their hard work and achievements. The support is also a signal of the value our communities place on a skilled workforce and how they are willing to invest in the leaders of tomorrow. We are grateful for the support.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


Penny Lane supports students with investment in child care

A Summerland charity’s gift to the new child care centre at Okanagan College is helping give South Okanagan families peace of mind and access to quality child care.  

Picture of Penny Lane directors

The Summerland Charity Shop Society, which formally ran Summerland’s Penny Lane Bargain Outlet stores, announced a $5,000 donation to the new Little Learners Academy at the Penticton campus of the College. 

“It’s challenging for parents to find child care,” says Orv Robson, Chairman of the Penny Lane Legacy Fund. 

“Little Learners provides a solid start to learning for children and makes it easier for their parents to pursue the next step of their education.”

Putting youth and education is at the forefront of what Penny Lane does.  In 2013, with the closing of its retail stores, the board of directors of the Society created the Penny Lane Community Legacy Fund with the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen.

The fund invests in the community with a focus on youth projects. According to Robson, supporting Little Learners fits in with their mandate to make access to education more equitable for youth. 

“The Centre will be a benefit for students and families today and for years to come,” adds Robson. “It’s a gem for the Okanagan Valley.”

Penny Lane has a long history of assisting students at Okanagan College and has supported two student bursaries annually since 2011.

“Penny Lane continues to make an incredible impact in the region, and we’re very thankful to be receiving this generous donation,” says Mary Ellen Heidt – Chair for the Child Care Centre campaign.

Little Learners opened in September 2017 and is operated through a partnership between Okanagan College and OneSky Community Resources. Registration is open to College students and employees, as well as families in the South Okanagan.

Related: Penticton Child Care Centre named one of Canada’s most sustainable buildings


Friday, October 12, 2018

Tolko chips in for Vernon youth

VERNON – Sixteen year old Vernon Secondary School student Nemo Des Mazes says she prefers working with her hands and building things rather than sitting in a classroom.

Tolko is supporting Okanagan CollegeWhen the chance came to take part in the Youth Trades Explorer Sampler at Okanagan College, she eagerly signed up.

The program gives high school students an opportunity to discover the trades as a career with hands-on technical training in six fields including plumbing, carpentry and electrical.

The innovative program, a partnership between School District 22 and the College, is not only attracting students, it’s also garnered the interest and support of a local employer.

Tolko Industries has donated $11,000 plus in-kind support toward the training at Okanagan College.

“We are passionate about youth and this fits with our long-term strategy to build our workforce and our communities,” says Tanya Wick, Tolko’s Vice President, People and Services.

“This program is helping young people gain the skills and experience that can help set them up for success.”

While this year’s student cohort is only in their second week of trades training, they’ve already progressed from building a deck chair to picnic tables. The lumber for their projects was also donated from Tolko’s Armstrong mill.

“It’s always very meaningful for us at the College to see an employer in the region invest in the training of our students,” says Teresa Kisilevich, Okanagan College’s Associate Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship.

“Students see that local businesses want them to succeed.”

Both School District 22 and Okanagan College are interested in elevating trades training as a career choice for students earlier on in their education. 

The program can be a game changer for students who aren’t always successful in academics by empowering them to dive and explore a variety of trades at a full-time level for 10 weeks, according to Joe Rogers, Superintendent of Schools at School District 22. 

“This gives kids an opportunity to go towards their passion. If you put a kid where they are happy they will do good work,” says Rogers.

“It’s also a win-win for our community as there is a shortage of trades workers.”

Patrick Kenny, who is participating in the current program says he’s always known that he’s wanted to get into the trades.

“I am really liking the program, and the College is welcoming,” he says.

In addition to lumber, Tolko is exploring how else it can support the Youth Trades Sampler program, including having the students take a tour of their Armstrong mill.

The students are working in Okanagan College’s new Trades Training Centre, which opened in August. The $6.2-million, 1,250 square-metre (13,450 square-foot) facility can accommodate approximately 150 students per year and features a dedicated welding shop and multi-use spaces in which the College can deliver training in carpentry, electrical, and plumbing and pipefitting, along with specialized training like the Youth Trades Sampler.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Kiwanis gives $125k to Okanagan College to support youth

The Kiwanis Club of Kelowna is donating $125,000 to Okanagan College to support students who will graduate and work with children and youth in the community.

Picture of Kiwanis Club of Kelowna members celebrate their announcement of a new $125,000 endowment at Okanagan College with students, Okanagan College representatives and children from Little Scholars child care.The major gift establishes the Kiwanis Kelowna 2018 Legacy Education Endowment, which will provide two annual $2,000 scholarships to a student in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Human Service Work (HSW) programs.

“Both early childhood educators and human service workers play a major role in supporting the well-being of children and youth,” says Bob Bissell, President of the Central Okanagan Kiwanis Community Service Society.

“We wanted to help ease some of the financial burden on these students so they can better focus on their studies, which ultimately benefits our community’s children and youth.”

Students, College representatives and children from Little Scholars child care took part in applauding the announcement at Okanagan College Friday, Sept. 21.

“We’re thankful to the Kiwanis Club of Kelowna, which has worked for more than 40 years to make a difference in the lives of children and seniors in our community,” says Jim Hamilton, Okanagan College President.

“With the establishment of this significant endowment, Kiwanis is helping students today and tomorrow. In turn, these students will enhance the quality of life for children and youth in our community for decades to come.”

Second year ECE student Jo-Dee Lebrun spoke at the event, sharing her experience in the program. 

“At first, starting a new chapter in my life felt really overwhelming but with the guidance from our instructors a passion was lit inside me for not only this career but advocating for children and other early childhood educators,” says Lebrun.

“This program has taught us to not only be better educators but better human beings.”

The funds for the endowment came from the sale of the Kiwanis Tower, located at the corner of Lawrence and Gordon. The high rise was designed to provide affordable housing to low-income seniors and was managed by the Kiwanis Clubs of Kelowna for over 40 years until the sale in 2016.

Central Okanagan Kiwanis Community Service Society is using the funds from the sale to support children and youth locally and has donated to a number of charities.

Bissell says Kiwanis chose Okanagan College because it has an excellent reputation and the programs to ensure the investment is well utilized beyond the foreseeable future.

The donation will support the College’s Caring Starts Here campaign, which aims to raise money for the $18.9-million Health Sciences Centre located on the Kelowna campus, as well as student scholarships and bursaries.


Sept. 11, 2018

Kathy Butler to retire from Okanagan College at the end of the year

Kathy Butler, Executive Director of the Okanagan College Foundation, has announced her decision to retire, which comes after a 15-year career with the College and the Foundation. 

Picture of Kathy Butler, smiling.Butler will be leaving a legacy of growth and development and a significant record of fundraising and leadership since she stepped aboard in 2003. 

The Foundation has raised more than $33 million in the intervening years, successfully navigating the shift from the OUC Foundation to the OC Foundation. Under Butler’s guidance, and with the support of an army of dedicated volunteers and staff, it has helped build a much larger and more modern, sustainable college and assisted a large number of students achieve their education and career goals.

More than that, it has helped build the reputation of Okanagan College as a progressive, caring institution that is supported by the communities it serves.
"I’m sad to see Kathy leave, but pleased that she will be able to find more time to spend with her family and enjoy her other interests and pursuits," says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.
"Please join me in expressing our thanks to Kathy and extending best wishes for her retirement."

Click here to view Butler's video message announcing her retirement.

Okanagan College will be recruiting for a replacement for Butler over the coming months.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Black Hills Estate grows new support for viticulture students

Viticulture students at Okanagan College have something new to cheer about.

Photo of Black Hills Estate Winery Director Glenn Fawcett and Eric Corneau, Regional Dean for the South Okanagan-Similkameen inspect some grapes growing on the rooftop of Okanagan College.

Black Hills Estate Winery is creating a new scholarship fund to provide awards up to $5,000 annually to aspiring winemakers and viticulturists.

“If someone from the valley has a goal and an aspiration to get into the wine industry we'd like to be part of helping enable them to have a career,” says Glenn Fawcett, Black Hills Estate Winery Director.

The funds for the student awards came from a unique fundraiser held at Black Hills. Every year, the Oliver winery hosts a release party for its latest batch of signature wine, Nota Bene. The event draws hundreds of people who enjoy food, drinks, live entertainment and a silent auction. The proceeds of the silent auction are donated to a local charity.

This year’s event raised $16,000 which is providing funding for the new student awards.

Fawcett says finding employees is one of the biggest challenges in the wine industry, and he hopes the awards will inspire new students to pursue the craft.

“We believe we need to have a community of people who are making a career in the wine industry,” says Fawcett, adding he’s impressed by the quality of the students coming out of Okanagan College’s viticulture programs.

“Having a local program for wine production and hospitality is the best way for us to grow together.”

“We’re thrilled to receive this support from Black Hills Estate Winery,” says Eric Corneau, Regional Dean for the South Okanagan-Similkameen. “Supporting students financially through scholarships is a very powerful and meaningful way to foster the conditions for student success.”

Okanagan College Penticton campus offers several training and education programs for the wine industry, including Viticulture Certificate, Wine Sales Certificate and Winery Assistant Certificate. The campus is also running a pilot delivery of the Viticulture Technician Diploma, which runs until April 2019.